Almost a year after the first release of Windows Phone 7, the first major upgrade (“Mango”) of the phone operating system is being rolled out. Although it is a major upgrade, the official version number is 7.5, rather than 8. I suspect that’s because Microsoft want to reserve that for a future major upgrade – presumably to be rolled out at, or around, the time that Windows 8 hits the market.
WP7.5 apparently addresses most of the shortcomings of the original release. As usual, Peter Bright, over at Ars Technica, gives a very complete review of WP7.5.
His final summing-up:
With Mango, Microsoft has got the smartphone operating system right. It’s fast, it’s fun, it’s easy to use, it does everything you need, and it looks great. It takes the things that made the original release unique and makes them better, and it addresses nearly every criticism made of that version. As a piece of software, it’s a triumph, and it’s more than good enough to take on Android and iOS.
As a complete package, though, questions remain. Much is being demanded of the hardware companies, and much is staked on Nokia’s ability to make hot handsets. If they don’t deliver phones that people want, Windows Phone will continue to struggle. But it won’t be because of the operating system.
I find those last two sentences particularly telling. And in my view, it’s not just down to the hardware companies, it’s also down to Microsoft’s marketing, the phone application Marketplace, and to Microsoft’s infrastructure used in the Marketplace. That infrastructure has, I think, a pretty serious flaw, which I have pointed out before. And that is: it assumes that people stay in one country all their lives.
Microsoft have chosen to use the infrastructure used by their Zune music player as the basis to support the application Marketplace for Windows Phone. The problem being that once you create an account in the Marketplace, and define your country of residence, you cannot change that country, nor even delete your account. I find this last point almost incredible. I can close my Windows Live ID account, but I can’t close my Zune account? Which bright spark thought that one up?
This shortcoming has been in the Zune Marketplace since at least 2007, and people have been complaining about it ever since. When Windows Phone was released in October 2010, and the Zune Marketplace, running as a PC application, was used to access, purchase, and deliver applications to Windows Phones, a whole new group of people were suddenly confronted with the shortcoming and started complaining. There are many threads about it on the support forums, such as this one, which is currently running at 17 pages of pure frustration.
I had thought that with the introduction of WP7.5, together with a web-based Marketplace alongside the Zune Marketplace PC application, that perhaps the shortcoming would be addressed. Particularly since the Marketplace has been broadened to 35 countries from the original 16.
But no, not a bit of it, you can still neither change your country nor delete your Zune account to start over again.
Almost as frustrating are the assumptions that Microsoft make about the languages used in those countries. I see that because I am based in The Netherlands, I am given no choice about the language I use: it has to be Dutch. Even some native Dutch speakers prefer to use their computers and phones in English. Still, it could be worse, I could live in Switzerland, where there are four official languages, but the Swiss Marketplace only offers French or German…
Microsoft are clearly firm believers in the Procrustean solution.