Microsoft's first Windows Phone 7 update -- out today -- isn't what you expected

The First Update is still coming. This one is just before that.

In a surprise move, Microsoft today released its first Windows Phone update. What’s even more surprising, it’s not The First Update that the company has been talking about for months, and everyone was expecting, or in some cases, yearning for.

It’s just the first update before The First Update, with “improvements.” And Microsoft isn’t saying what the improvements are. What used to be known as The First Update -- with new features like copy/paste, software fixes, possible support for a new Qualcomm chipset, and possibly some improvements in memory to make applications load faster -- is still on schedule to be released in early March.

But starting now, Windows Phone 7 users, still a rare breed in the U.S., will begin receiving a message on their phones that the first update but not The First Update is available for downloading. The distribution of the new code is being phased in, so everyone will not get the message at the same time.Microsoft’s Michael Stroh, who announced the update in the Windows Phone blog, cautions users about getting overly enthusiastic about the news.

“Now, before you get too excited, let me explain,” he writes. “This isn’t the update you’ve probably been reading about or perhaps waiting for, the one with copy and paste (but that’s coming soon). No, this update is a relatively small one.”

And he’s not kidding.

He goes on to helpfully answer the obvious questions, like, “What’s in this update?”

“This first update for Windows Phone is designed to improve the software update process itself,” he blogs.

He seems to realize that improving the update process is unlikely to set hearts pounding, or make palms damp with anticipation. He takes a positive approach.“So while it might not sound exciting, it’s still important because it’s paving the way for all future goodie-filled updates to your phone, such as copy and paste or improved Marketplace search,” he says.

He adds an encouraging note. “In the future, I encourage you to check out our new update history page on the Windows Phone website for a brief, plain-English summary of what each update does or what features it adds to your phone.”

But when you follow the link, you might conclude the future looks a bit bleak, or, at least, terse. Here’s the entire plain-English summary of what this, the first update before The First Update, does:

“February 2011

We made some improvements to the way we deliver software updates to ensure that the process keeps working smoothly for you.”

Through a PR spokesperson, Microsoft declined to explain what the improvements actually are or do.

To complete the update, users will connect their phone by cable to a PC or Mac USB port and then use either the Zune application on a PC or the Windows Phone 7 Connector for Mac application on a Mac, and then follow the instructions.

Some users who installed either application “in the past…might actually need to update that program first and then use it to update your phone,” according to Stroh.

“In that case, you’ll know,” he adds, reassuringly.

You can check out Microsoft “help and how-to” Webpage on updating your Windows Phone 7 handset.

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Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.