WP7 update SNAFU will have long-term repercussions

Microsoft’s first Windows Phone 7 update can hardly be termed a success. Just hours after Redmond rolled out the patch, multiple reports began trickling in about phones that had been frozen or bricked.

As Sophos Security expert Chester Wisniewski notes, the WP7 update SNAFU will undoubtedly have long-term repercussions for the nascent mobile platform and Remond’s aspirations to challenge Android and Apple. 

“Microsoft has elected to centrally control the distribution of updates for WP7, which ultimately puts them in a sort of middle ground,” explained Wisniewski.

“After an accident like this one, carriers may begin applying pressure on Microsoft to let them decide if and when handsets receive updates.”

According to Wisniewski, the smartphone landscape is actually quite diverse when it comes to how much control phone and OS manufacturers have compared to the carriers.

For example, at one end of the spectrum is Apple and Research In Motion (RIM) – two companies that  centrally control all software and updates they provide for their phones.

This facilitates a very rigorous QA process which helps the companies identify defects, while allowing them to ship fixes/updates to improve security on a more regular basis.

In contrast, it is up to the manufacturers to customize Google’s Android OS and test it on their devices.

Of course, carriers are also producing their own customizations – further diversifying the variants of Android in the field.

But Microsoft seems to have chosen a path right down the middle. 

“Like Google, they are not producing handsets, but they are trying to create a centrally distributed operating system platform that they control. From a security perspective this appears to be a solid approach, allowing Microsoft to ensure devices in the field are all able to consume patches when they make them available, but it does come with risk.

“Because Microsoft is placing the burden of their software SNAFU on the carriers and manufacturers, I expect we’ll see a backlash against their preferred updating method. This incident could not have come at a worse time for them, as they are trying to enter a very competitive smartphone market in which any bad press could push consumers to better established brands,” added Wisniewski.