Microsoft's Windows Phone 7.8 on hold until Q1, consumers lash out

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Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) will not release its Windows Phone 7.8 mobile operating system update until early 2013, much to the frustration of consumers who've been waiting for the overhaul since this summer. 

Microsoft first announced Windows Phone 7.8 in June, promising the update will bridge the software gap between its legacy Windows Phone 7.5 and the new Windows Phone 8. Because features and applications optimized for Windows Phone 8 smartphones are not backwards-compatible with devices running Windows Phone 7.5, WP 7.8 was built to bring WP 8-like experiences to older handsets; Microsoft and its manufacturing partners also will release new, low-cost Windows Phone 7.8 devices targeting consumers in emerging markets.

"We want you to know that we're working closely with our hardware and carrier partners to get it tested, approved and rolled out to as many devices as possible in early 2013," said Windows Phone Corporate Vice President Terry Myerson. "As we work to quickly get this in the hands of our loyal users, we're also striving to deliver a high-quality release and ensure a smooth transition for our widely expanded services."

Reaction to Myerson's announcement was resoundingly negative. "I feel like I wasted my money, sadly not recommend to my friends to buy Windows Phone now, one year with my Lumia and now will be abandoned," read one post. "Disappointed. Extremely disappointed. Beyond extremely disappointed. The first [Windows Phone 7.8] announcement was in June of 2012. Five months later, we still don't have it," read another.

Windows Phone 7.8 highlights include a new start screen featuring resizable Live Tiles enabling more efficient access to apps, photos and contacts, expanded theme and accent colors and new lockscreen capabilities. Myerson adds that Microsoft's developer and publisher allies are at work on Windows Phone 7.8 versions of popular mobile apps, citing examples such as Rovio Entertainment's Angry Birds and Angry Birds Star Wars as well as Zynga's (NASDAQ:ZNGA) Words with Friends and Draw Something.

Microsoft unveiled Windows Phone 8 late last month. In addition to the customizable start screen adapted for Windows Phone 7.8, the new OS touts integration of VoIP and video chat, a customizable start screen and Wallet Hub, which supports Near Field Communications-enabled m-commerce services. Users can also share content across Windows Phone 8, Windows 8 for PCs and Xbox gaming consoles.

Earlier this week, The Verge reported Microsoft also is at work on a Windows Phone 8 update expected to include virtual private network support, always-on Wi-Fi connectivity and audio improvements. Microsoft likely will unveil the Windows Phone 8 update--codenamed "Apollo Plus"--during February 2013's Mobile World Congress event, suggesting it could roll out at roughly the same time as WP7.8.

For more:
- read this Windows Phone Blog entry

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