Microsoft to allow Windows Phone developers to update 7.0 and 7.5 apps

By Tom Warren, on 20th Sep 11 5:53 pm with 35 Comments

Microsoft is calling on Windows Phone developers to submit 7.5 “Mango” apps and update their existing 7.0 apps.

Windows Phone 7.5 devices are now available in Japan and Russia and Microsoft wants devs to be prepared. “The rate of apps submitted that take advantage of new Windows Phone features (like fast app switching and multiple live tiles) is steadily increasing,” says Senior Director of the Windows Phone Marketplace, Todd Brix in a blog post on Tuesday.

The hesitation of developers to update their Windows Phone apps might be related to the 7.0 and 7.5 split. Windows Phone developers who publish a Mango application will be unable to target Windows Phone 7.0 devices to fix bugs and offer additional features for their current app. Users will have to update to Windows Phone Mango to receive application updates and developers will have two versions of their application in the Marketplace. Microsoft is addressing this problem. The company admitted that the split is “limiting” and revealed that by the end of October Microsoft will allow developers to publish updates to both the 7.0 and 7.5 versions of their apps.

“Knowing that on average people update their apps every three to four months, this October timeframe provides assurance that you that you can submit 7.5 apps today and still have access to your 7.0 app well before the next update is required,” said Brix. Microsoft is also encouraging developers to make the 7.5 features of their applications identifiable in their application descriptions. Microsoft is supplying screenshots and overlay graphics that developers can add to their own screenshots to identify the application as optimised for Windows Phone 7.5 (see below).

“Now is the time to submit your Windows Phone 7.5 enhanced app if you want to be there when customers take their first big bite out of Mango,” said Brix. Microsoft has not supplied a timeline for the Windows Phone 7.5 roll out to existing devices but sources close to the company indicate that Microsoft is aiming to supply the update to devices by the end of September.

Windows Phone 7.5 app promotion for developers

  • Matthew Williams

    Microsoft could eliminate all fears if they just said when Mango was coming out.

    • Anonymous

      So true.

      Devs though need to get their apps out. I so want to use runkeeper or Endomondo to track my running/hiking/biking but the apps are always tombstoned when any activity on my phone happens. A recompile with mango sdk would fix that.

      all though, now that i think about it, the RTW mango sdk isn’t even out yet is it?

    • Robin Ashe

      I think they’re waiting until the majority of carriers are ready to roll it out, so they can do it all at once instead of having the staggered NoDo experience.

  • J Lancaster

    makes sense.  mango will be pushed out during the month of october, and apps will be available for both during that time frame.

  • Ted Wood

    What a mess that MS is creating by not having a seamless upgrade path. But that’s no surprise.

    • Robin Ashe

      They’re trying to have a seamless upgrade path, but that’s not easy when dealing with carriers. Even Verizon iPhone users get different iOS versions from UMTS iPhone users. Apple’s definitely got it better given they have only their hardware to worry about, but for a platform that’s available from multiple hardware manufacturers Microsoft is doing the best job anyone has done so far.

    • Anonymous

      It seems you misunderstand what this article is about. Did you read it?
      Let me recap for you:
      Previously, the plan was to have it so that once a developer converted an app to 7.5, that would replace the 7.0 version on Marketplace. Some developers were discontent, because they wanted to be able to maintain their 7.0 apps (bug fixes, etc). So, due to this feedback, Microsoft is now allowing developers to publish both 7.5 and 7.0 versions of an app.
      This does not mean that 7.0 apps have to be converted before they’ll run on 7.5. It’s simply an additional feature to account for carriers not pushing out the 7.5 upgrade in a timely manner.

  • Anonymous

    Awesome “execution”!

  • Avatar X

    From what i have seen the apparent reason this happened was because WP7.0 and WP7.1(NoDo) are Win CE 6.0 R3 + some improvements taken from WEC7.  WP7.5 is the first WP7 that is completely WEC7 based App will no longer have problems after this with Tango 1,Tango 2 and whatever update gets added later before Apollo.

    • Guest

      So what? Why can’t you have a single binary like you can for iphone/ipad or like when Apple switched from PowerPC to Intel. You could create universal binaries that had both a PowerPC version and a Intel version. Why can’t that be done here?

    • Anonymous

      Technically, there is no such thing as a “universal binary.” Apple’s “universal binary” was really two binary files packaged into one, and the OS would pick which one to run based on the platform it was running on.

      On the other hand, Windows Phone 7.5 apps can’t run on 7.0 because they use a newer version of the API with functions that 7.0 doesn’t implement. So, the problem we’re running into here is simply users not updating their phones to 7.5, but developers still wanting to update their 7.0 version apps.

      Now yes, technically, you could package both a 7.0 and 7.5 app together if they provided some way of doing so. But, that’s entirely pointless because Marketplace will just serve up a different version of the app according to the user’s phone version.

      P.S.: The iPhone/iPad have never used PowerPC or Intel processors. Always ARM. Packaged PPC/x86 binaries were for specific versions of Mac OS X.

    • Guest

      Thanks for the clearly articulated informative answer.

    • FireBozoNow

      Another price being paid for allowing three years to go by without an iPhone response and then rushing WP into the market prematurely or else face total annihilation. The story should get better from 7.5 on. But Ballmer should never has survived this fiasco, which is a tribute to his arrogance, inability to accurately assess competitive threats, and failure to position the company to win.

  • Anonymous

    This is proof that Apple has a superior platform.

    • OMG55

      If it is so superior, why are you here??? People who use a superior OS have not need to be shopping for another. We know what you really interested in….WP7

    • Brad

      I won’t make any claims of platform superiority, since claims of that sort would serve no purpose, but many of us non-WP7 users are here because we got linked by Daring Fireball, not because we were seeking information due to an interest in WP7. At least in my case, I came here because of the “WTF” factor. This sort of thing is a trivial engineering challenge that’s had a solution for many years. Microsoft’s poor method for dealing with the issue is shocking to those of us who aren’t acclimated to their products or practices.

      I have no interest in starting an argument or trolling people, so I won’t say much more, but suffice to say, I feel that they blundered in their handling of this issue. You’re welcome to disagree.

    • Guest

      “Microsoft’s poor method for dealing with the issue is shocking to those of us who aren’t acclimated to their products or practices.”

      That’s a little silly in your otherwise reasonable questions and comments. Don’t project one issue, in one group, of one Division, to MS products and practices generally. When it comes to compatibility moving through OS versions, you would be well advised not to put Apple’s record up against MS’s.

    • Guest

      Edit: When it comes to compatibility moving through OS versions *broadly*

    • Brad

      Fair enough, and I appreciate the courtesy, despite my less-than-courteous comment. Thanks.

    • kevin zhang

      apple has the same problem “only compatible with ios #.##”

    • Brad

      You missed the last two words of that phrase: “only compatible with iOS #.## and above”. iOS has not had this issue.

    • Anonymous

      WP7.5 can run 7.0 apps.

    • Brad

      WP7.5 can indeed run WP7.0 apps; you are quite correct. But that is not the same thing.

      WP7 developers are faced with a dilemma that iOS developers do not face, and they have to choose one of the following at the moment:
      1) Forgo 7.5 features in favor of supporting their existing 7.0 customers (lazy route, but it works)
      2) Support two separate versions of their app if they want both 7.5′s new features and their old 7.0 users (ideal, but it means more work)
      3) Abandon their 7.0 users so they can leverage 7.5 features in their app (moving too fast)

      The difference is that iOS developers can simply add new features to old apps, and devices that support those features will have them, while ones that don’t won’t have them. As a result, they can maintain one version of the app while supporting both legacy users and early adopters. That’s typically been true with the mobile versions of Windows as well I thought, though clearly it isn’t in this particular case. The architectural jump being suggested by Avatar X in an earlier comment may be a feasible explanation for where the problem comes from, though it doesn’t explain why Microsoft has left it up to the developers to handle the problem, rather than tackling it themselves.

    • Anonymous

      Well, the problem here is that many of the new Mango API features aren’t just “addon” type things. If something like TCP sockets or background tasks were written in the app but not the OS, it would break the app.

      So, the solution is simple: you have a 7.0 and 7.5 version of the app. The technical reason for this is probably 7.0 running on .net 3.5 and 7.5 running on .net 4.0. That being said, maintaining two versions of the app isn’t as difficult as it sounds. It’s not like you’d have to have two complete copies of the code, etc. A developer can simply use preprocessor directives so that 7.5-specific things don’t get compiled for a 7.0 publish.

    • Brad

      As I mentioned, I understand why there’s a need for the shift, but I just wish they had handled it more elegantly. As for the difficulty, you’re spot-on correct with what you just said. Even so, it is extra hassle, admittedly not much, to manage two separate apps.

    • Anonymous

      Okay, glad we could come to an agreement :)
      (As in, yes, they could have handled it more elegantly to avoid some extra hassle, but the extra hassle in the solution they’ve made isn’t too much)

    • Anonymous

      I know it’s easy for techno-geeks like us to understand, and more importantly, implement, “fixes” like these, but don’t forget that this stuff is Greek to “normal” users (aka, the vast majority of them). Go ahead and ask 10 random people on the street if they know which version of their smartphone’s OS is running. I’d be surprised if they even knew the exact model of their phone, let alone what an OS even is. 

      I don’t know how many years in a row the iPhone needs to dominate in user satisfaction before other manufacturers realize that a comprehensive approach equals a better user experience, but the less, the better – for EVERYONE. 

      And one last note, Apple’s App Store DOES contain apps that require a certain version of iOS or model to run, but as long as you bought your phone in the last 2-3 years, you’re all but guaranteed to not run into that problem. In today’s smartphone world, 12 months is a lifetime, (quite literally, as most models are killed off after a year) so the fact that a 3 year old iPhone is still supported, is amazing (and unprecedented in most cases). 

    • Thomas

      I think there is absolutely no reason to cater for 7.0 users once 7.5 is released on a larger scale. Every one with a Windows Phone 7 device will be able to upgrade and there is no reason to the best of my knowledge not to. Microsoft should actually copy one more Apple stance and take the decision from the developers. They should not be able to support 7.0 any longer after 7.5 was launched on every WP device.

    • Anonymous

      Go back to Apple fanboy-ing on Engadget.

  • Anonymous

    An FYI to all those who were linked here by Daring Fireball’s misleading post title and didn’t read the article: WP7.0 Apps CAN run on WP7.5. If you would kindly read the article, it simply explains that developers can maintain 7.0 versions of their apps while simultaneously releasing them with features only compatible with WP7.5.
    If you’re going to make comparisons the iPhone, I believe Apple does not do this. (i.e., If I’m not mistaken, you can’t have a single app on the app store with separate iOS 3 and 4 versions)

    • Guest

      That ifawning retard was misleading? I’m shocked I tell ya. Well, not really.

    • Brad

      I’m guessing this was aimed at me. I take no offense, since I do not believe that any was intended, and I thank you for suggesting ways to correct a potential misunderstanding.

      That said, I do not believe there was a misunderstanding on my part. As a software developer who’s working his way through the end of a graduate degree in computer science, I like to know details, so I did read this article, as well as the linked ones, before posting. I’ve also explained in an earlier comment why maintenance is not as simple as what you suggest, though by no means do I mean to say that it is inordinately difficult, because it should not be for most developers.

      As for iOS, yes, it does allow one version of the app to work across multiple versions of the firmware, and has from the start (EDIT: I should clarify that I’m not saying that iOS 3 devices will just ignore iOS 4 API calls in a way similar to how HTML just ignores tags it doesn’t recognize, rather, I believe that they allow multiple binaries to be packaged as a single executable). They even have “universal” apps that run on both the iPad and the iPhone/iPod touch without requiring separate versions.

      Beyond that, I’d prefer to make no further comparisons, simply because I know that these sorts of comparisons tend to turn into flame wars in a hurry, and it was not my intent to stir the pot or offend anyone. As you, I’m more interested in correcting innocent misunderstandings, even if I’m the one who’s mistaken. If I am, please feel free to correct me.

    • Anonymous

      Considering that you did read the article, the above comment was not aimed at you.

    • Brad

      Fair enough. Cheers. :)

    • Qinhl

      Clearly shows you are not an iOS developer. Thus I’m baffled as to what prompted you to write essays about a subject that you only have superficial knowledge about.