We’ve been here in Redmond, Washington at Microsoft’s BUILD developer conference for nearly two days now, and there hasn’t been a peep about Windows Phone 7.8. The eventual update for existing Mango devices has been teased since the Windows Phone 8 announcement in June, but nary a shred of detail surrounding its rollout has been heard since.
According to BetaBeat, a brief post on the Microsoft Italy’s Facebook page made mention of the update, stating that it would arrive “shortly after the marketing of the devices Windows Phone 8″. As we know, Windows Phone 8 was recently launched, with new phones coming in the coming weeks. We wouldn’t be surprised if Windows Phone 7.8 updates were already in carriers’ hands, to be doled out once WP8 becomes a bit more common in the market. The post was quickly taken down.
We knew about the aesthetic changes coming to Windows Phone 7.8, including an multiple tile sizes to the home screen, bringing parity with WP8. There’s also ”the sharing of the calendar using the function Club and access to key services and content Microsoft, including Xbox Music Store library that can be enjoyed by Zune and Xbox SmartGlass”. In other words, some first-party apps will be available on Windows Phone 7.8 but the core improvements to the OS, including improved app performance and more comprehensive API support, will be absent.
Customers who recently purchased a Windows Phone 7.5 device, including the latest Nokia Lumia phones, are understandably upset at the apparent deprecation of the seemingly-recent OS. But Microsoft claims that in order to win the market share it needs to become a contender for third place in the smartphone race, it had to do something radical. While WP8 looks similar to its predecessor, its codebase is entirely retooled to support multi-core chips and high-res screens.
Whether Windows Phone 7.8 will placate the teeming masses of Mango users remains to be seen, but Microsoft is betting that the relatively small installed base will not impede the success of Windows Phone 8. There’s a lot riding on that confidence.