Microsoft has long used the Windows Update process to keep its operating systems up to date, but earlier this year at Ignite, Microsoft made a somewhat startling promise: that "this continuous update process applies to all Windows 10 devices, including phones." Up until now, Windows 10 Mobile has received updates through the Windows Insider program, which Microsoft has used as not only a beta testing vehicle but also as a bit of an end around; Insiders could get the latest bits on their phones without having to wait for the dreaded carrier approval.
Carriers have been a big roadblock to both the operations and marketing for Windows Phones (and now Windows phones). Even when Microsoft has made strides to introduce new features or fix glaring bugs, users would have to wait, sometimes months and sometimes not receiving the updates at all, while carriers "tested" the upgrades on their networks.
With this latest release for Windows 10 Mobile, upgrading the OS to 10586.29, Microsoft has for the first time pushed an OS update to phones without having it ultimately be served up by the carriers, and without using the Windows Insider crutch to sneak past carrier approval.
Microsoft's President of Windows, Terry Myerson, tweeted about the accomplishment yesterday:
Big day, first update worldwide (and more to come) to all phones running #Windows10 - same build as PC!
— Terry Myerson (@tmyerson) December 8, 2015
The new process still does not provide firmware updates, as far as we know, so carriers and their bottlenecks will still be involved in upgrading phones. And as we were told previously, Microsoft is keeping the carriers in the loop, telling us two months ago that:
Microsoft is working closely with mobile operators to leverage their testing and our flighting to meet and exceed current quality bars. We will use their input but will decide when to send the updates out based on input from Mobile Operators and our Windows Insiders
Getting upgrades to phone users has always been a sticking point for Windows phones, and while this new development may not ultimately help to build market share, it sure can't hurt.