If there is one completely broken and painful process with Windows Phone 8.1 today it is the upgrade process, particularly those locked to carriers. This is a sore subject for many Windows Phone users because it takes seemingly forever to get updates. The latest Lumia Denim update is classic example. AT&T took 10 weeks after it was released finally offered it on the Lumia 1520 while the Lumia 635 still hasn’t seen the update. Verizon never released Lumia Cyan for the Lumia Icon (Lumia 93) and instead did a rollup with Denim just a few weeks ago. Countless posts have been made on Windows centric sites on the subject and to say it is broken is, well, an understatement. Microsoft has recognized this and is apparently trying to fix it in Windows 10 for Phone. Under a project by the name of Project Milkyway, the company is outlining an update process that will take from 4-6 weeks from the time an update is announced to the time it hits your phone. Interestingly, OEMs and carriers are still part of the process which has been a lot of the challenge. I outlined a way I think Microsoft could bypass them entirely but appreciate it too has challenges. While no specifics were given on how Microsoft would encourage them to speed things up, the Project Milkyway outline they presented today at WinHEC in China seems to be trying to change the current status quo with Windows 10 for Phone.
The goal of Project Milkyway is to provide users updates to the latest release in 4-6 weeks. This is done through a combined effort by Microsoft and the partner (Carrier, OEM). For Microsoft’s part, they will:
- Facilitate test via standard testing and flighting processes
- Review early feedback via Windows Insider program
- Provide partner guidance on downloading and testing
- Publish the OS update to targeted devices
So far so good. Now the partner then has the responsibility to “Download, test and report issues per guidelines within specified time-frame”. That last big, specified time-frame, may be the key to it all. Microsoft appears to be setting a time limit on how long a partner can test and report issues with the build before the must release it. Right now this is a bit open-ended in Windows Phone 8.1. The big question is how exactly they are going to enforce this with their partners. If they don’t meet the timeline will Microsoft push the update out anyway? Will partners be required to publish an anticipated release date? It’s not clear and Microsoft did not offer any details on exactly how this was going to be done.
In truth, any process improvement will be welcomed by the Windows Phone community. Clearly what we have today is broken and there seems to be little if any incentive or pressure for OEMs and carriers to issue updates. Time will tell if Project Milkyway is successful when the first updates after Windows 10 for Phone are released by Microsoft. As for me, I’m skeptical – but hopeful.