Microsoft nebulous on Windows Phone 7 upgrades

A Microsoft employee reportedly confirmed that Windows Mobile 6.5 phones won’t be able to upgrade to Windows Phone 7 Series, even as the company officially dodges the question.

According to APC, Natasha Kwan, General Manager for Microsoft’s Mobile Communications Business in the Asia-Pacific region, said earlier versions of Windows Phones won’t ever be able to upgrade to Microsoft’s flashy mobile OS after it debuts later this year. That includes high-powered Windows Mobile 6.5 phones such as the HTC HD2.

Microsoft has strict requirements on the hardware of Windows Phone 7 Series devices. They must have at least a 1 GHz processor, a capacitive touch screen, a 3.5 mm headphone jack and a 5-megapixel camera. Thing is, the HD2 has all those things, but it has five buttons, and Microsoft dictates that WinPho7 phones must have exactly three. The HTC HD2 “doesn’t qualify because it doesn’t have the three buttons,” Kwan said. There may also be other WinPho7 requirements Microsoft has yet to reveal that the HD2 doesn’t have, said Tony Wilkinson, Business Operations Director for Microsoft Australia

Officially, Microsoft isn’t being so direct. The company told PC World in a statement that “we cannot confirm that WM6.X phones that satisfy [hardware] requirements will be upgradeable,” but said WinPho7 devices will be upgradeable as the operating system evolves.

There is a distinction to be made here: The HD2 does not qualify because it doesn’t meet all of Microsoft’s hardware requirements, even though it comes close. Microsoft is merely keeping quiet on whether phones that do qualify will be able to upgrade. To my knowledge, no such phone exists at the moment, so the point is moot.

In any case, Microsoft will reportedly continue to support Windows Mobile 6.5 under the name Windows Phone Classic, so there may still be updates for those phones down the road. But unless someone designs a phone that’s specifically intended to cross over from 6.5 to 7, I wouldn’t count on any phones making that upgrade.