Microsoft separates Windows 10 Mobile updates from firmware

The process of upgrading will be much faster as a result.

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Credit: Reuters/Thomas Mukoya

One of the biggest frustrations for Windows Phone owners has been the long lag between operating system updates and availability. That's because when Microsoft would issue an OS update, handset makers would hold off on the release until they could roll in a firmware update as well.

This was fine if you owned a Lumia, as Microsoft delivered the firmware update at the same time as the OS. For example, Windows Phone 8.1 came with a firmware called Lumia Cyan and Windows Phone 8.1 Update 1 came with a firmware called Lumia Denim.

If you were one of the small minority of non-Lumia Windows Phone owners, you were left waiting for months some times for an update. Such was my experience. My last Windows Phone device was the Samsung ATIV SE, a nice device that was reminiscent of the Galaxy 4.

But months after the Windows Phone 8.1 release was out for Lumia owners, we ATIV SE owners were still waiting. Samsung had pretty much abandoned us and the upgrade didn't come for several months.

Now with the release of Windows 10 Mobile, there will be no required firmware update. That's not to say the phone won't get a firmware update at some point, it's just not dependent on one for the OS upgrade.

A Microsoft spokesperson issued the following statement to news site Neowin:

For existing 8.1 devices, Win10 update is going to be only SW update, but in order to fix few issue, there will be FW updates for some devices which are still based on 8.1 SW before they can receive Win10 update. Right now we have not communicated what 8.1 devices will get updated and when but please have the latest SW on all your 8.1 in preparation of win 10.

This should speed the release of Windows 10 and future builds to handsets. In the past, Microsoft would issue the final code to the few third-party handset makers it had, and they would have to do a new firmware, test both the OS and firmware, get carrier approval, and then issue an OTA update. Hence the delay. Now Microsoft has eliminated that delay.

Microsoft has also discontinued the Preview for Developer program in favor of the Windows Insider Program, the same program delivering preview builds of its PC operating system. So users of 8.1 devices can get it now.

The question now is whether it will do any good. Windows Phone is dead in the water and the lack of any news out of the recent Mobile World Conference show doesn't inspire much hope either. It's a smart move but far too late.

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