Microsoft needs to fix whatever is causing the company to continuously, and publicly, botch the roll-out of Windows 10 Mobile to existing Windows Phone users — and fast.
The release of a new version of Windows to existing customers would, on the face of it, seem like a simple task. You tell them when it's likely to happen and, when the time is right, push the update to phones with a notification telling them it's ready.
Not so for Microsoft, however, which is now almost six months behind its original date of November 2015, which was put forward by a Microsoft executive in South Africa. That date was then revised to December by the official Lumia Facebook page.
Now, according to a new report from VentureBeat, anyone with a Windows Phone will get the update in March. But here's the worst part: The roll-out is going to have to be specified by the user — via settings — rather than pushed from Microsoft.
The list of missteps by Microsoft is, in this case, extensive. For a start, the company needs to set aside whatever is impeding the release of Windows 10 Mobile — the desktop version of Windows 10, it's worth noting, has been on PCs since late-July last year — and tell every executive, social media manager, and phone owner when, exactly, it will be.
A company as big as Microsoft may have trouble communicating a date to its executives around the world, but the false hope that the dates have given users is unfair, especially when they have hung onto Windows Phone for this long.
Just as with the Surface debacle, Microsoft risks alienating a core group of users. Windows phones currently have a 1.7% market share globally — equivalent to under 100 million devices — and many of these will be die-hard fans who have stuck with the platform even though it doesn't have a broad range of apps, among other issues.
It makes no sense for Microsoft to continuously confuse the remaining users of Windows Phone with seemingly random dates. Google has had problems with Android updates but that's because so many different manufactures and carriers support Android phones, all of whom have to vet, check, and deploy the updates. Microsoft makes nearly 99% of the Windows phones that sell.
From this perspective it makes the company look even worse. Apple, which makes 100% of the iPhones it sells, has no problem rolling out updates to iOS — and its user base is in the hundred millions (perhaps billions).
Ultimately, it would be nice if Microsoft worked out when it will roll-out Windows 10 Mobile, told everyone within the company who needs to know, and then stuck to it. The VentureBeat report may be true, but it has taken almost six months for the company to arrive at this point. That six months — which, most likely, has been tough for Windows Phone users — is both too long and confusing.
Microsoft refuses to kill Windows phones despite falling sales but this would imply that the company is committed to it. If it isn't, and things like this make it look that way, then it should bite the bullet, apologise to existing users, and shut it down. Anything less is a disservice to its most loyal customers.