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Microsoft's inconsistent Windows Phone 8.1 strategy stumbles forward

Nokia Lumia 520 with Windows Phone 8
Credit: Thinkstock

New phones for some, no updates for others. No wonder Windows Phone is at 3% market share.

It's no secret that Windows Phone is not setting the world on fire, despite all the noise we keep hearing from Samsung and other non-Apple vendors that they want an alternative. WP8 is now at just 2.7% market share, and that's a decline from 3.8% last year.

It's not really a surprise when you look at how mismanaged the whole thing is, and I say that as someone who traded in an iPhone for a WP8 device. I'm more frustrated than anyone.

Problem number one is the ridiculous amount of time between major releases. Apple has a new iOS release out every year, usually with the new handsets. Windows Phone 8 came out in October 2012 and now, 22 months later, many of us are still waiting for 8.1.

The 8.1 rollout has been a confusing, staggered mess. iOS comes out for every handset it supports on the same day. WP is as chaotic as an Android release, if not more so. Just look through the forums of WPCentral.com and you’ll see that the OS might be ready for one device but not another.

What is readily apparent is that Nokia devices are getting it first, and then some. If you own an HTC 8X or like me, a Samsung ATIV SE, you're playing a waiting game with no release date. Meanwhile, some Nokia owners are talking about getting a beta of GDR1, the first update to 8.1. I don't even have 8.1 and Nokia owners are getting its first update. This is the kind of mess that annoys people about Android.

But not everyone is as annoyed with Microsoft as me. HTC is holding a press event in New York on August 19, and leaks from the Best Buy system indicate it will be the HTC One M8 model running WP8.1. HTC has been hinting at an HTC One running WP8 for some time, but now it looks official. The leaks from Best Buy show it will be a Verizon exclusive.

The One M8 is a gorgeous piece of hardware with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 2.3GHz quad-core SoC with 2GB of RAM and a 2600mAh battery, a 5-inch display with full-HD resolution, and a Corning Gorilla glass screen, plus Boomsound speakers, a 5-megapixel front-facing camera, and a MicroSD slot.

Meanwhile, Neowin reports that the Lumia 830, a replacement for the mid-range 820, will be headed to AT&T as an exclusive. The 820 wasn't exactly a powerhouse; it had a 1.5GHz Snapdragon 4 processor and a 480p resolution screen. People who have seen the prototype 830 say it has a bigger screen and a camera reminiscent of the 1020, which would definitely indicate a significant overhaul of the phone.

Finally, remember last week when I suggested Samsung and Microsoft link arms because Tizen was not able to get developer traction? Well you can forget that. Microsoft last Friday filed suit against Samsung in a New York court, accusing Samsung of violating a 2011 contract involving Android patent licenses.

Microsoft explained its position in a blog post, along with the full legal filing. In short, it said Samsung is not honoring the old contract. While Samsung did make its royalty payment, it was late and it refused to pay the interest on the late payment. Samsun is also threatening to breach the agreement again.

After becoming the leading player in the worldwide smartphone market, Samsung decided late last year to stop complying with its agreement with Microsoft. In September 2013, after Microsoft announced it was acquiring the Nokia Devices and Services business, Samsung began using the acquisition as an excuse to breach its contract.

This is no light matter, as Samsung is a major partner. It's a PC vendor selling Windows 8.1 machines and some WP8 handsets. Hopefully they can settle this because these companies have bigger problems than each other.

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