Current Smart Phones Won't Run Windows Mobile 7

Dennis Faas's picture

Microsoft has revealed that the next edition of its mobile operating system (OS) won't be backwards compatible. That may hurt sales of current handsets which, though not obsolete, will soon be second-string.

The company confirmed that it won't be possible to upgrade phones running Windows Mobile 6.5 to the new system, set to be released this year. As part of a rebranding, the system will formally be known as Windows 7 Phone series rather than Windows 7 phone.

The reason for the lack of upgrade is that  Microsoft is severely restricting the scope available for handset designers with version 7. All handsets running the system will have to fall into one of three basic designs for the phone's components and specifications. The idea is to make it easier for application developers to be certain their apps will work well on all handsets, as well as making sure the system isn't tainted by appearing on low quality phones.

Three Buttons Good, Five Buttons Bad

The upgrade restrictions have already claimed some high-profile casualties.

One example is the HD2 handset, made by HTC. Although it's highly regarded, the handset won't be compatible with the specifications for version 7. That's partly because it has five physical buttons, two more than Microsoft's rules allow, though it may also be down to hardware requirements which haven't been made public yet.

More details on those requirements are set to be revealed at MIX, an annual Microsoft event designed to help independent developers and manufacturers whose products use Microsoft technologies. (Source:

Though upgrading was never a guarantee, buyers of handsets such as the HD2 will likely be irritated to discover they won't be able to run the new system when it is released. The news could mean some would-be buyers decide to wait until Windows Phone 7 handsets hit the shelves before getting a new phone, the same problem which manufacturers feared in the run-up to Windows 7 replacing Vista.

Windows Mobile 6.5 To Live On As 'Classic' Edition

The good news is that Windows Mobile 6.5 handsets won't become worthless once version 7 is released. Microsoft is expected to continue supporting version 6.5, rebranding it as Windows Phone Classic and lowering the price it charges handset manufacturers; the aim is that it then becomes used more in the budget market while version 7 targets more expensive models. (Source:

The bad news is that developers may then decide not to bother tweaking their new applications to work with 6.5 as well as 7.0, meaning that people who are buying quality handsets now may find the supply of apps available to them slows down considerably at the end of the year.

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