Microsoft: “No Windows Phone 7 upgrade for Windows Mobile 6.x devices”

Owners of HTC’s highly-praised HD2 touchscreen smartphone will be unable to upgrade the device to Microsoft’s new Windows Phone 7 software when the OS is released towards the end of the year.

Despite the HD2 meeting many of the criteria laid down in Microsoft’s ‘Chassis 1‘ spec – including a 1GHz Qualcomm processor high-res capacitive touch display 5 megapixel camera and 3.5mm headphone jack – the phone will be ruled out for the simple reason that it has five buttons instead of the three mandated for all Windows Phone 7 devices.

That’s the official line from Microsoft at any rate. Natasha Kwan General Manager for Microsoft’s Mobile Communications Business in the Asia-Pacific region told APC that the HD2 “doesn’t qualify because it doesn’t have the three buttons” one of which needs to be a dedicated search key with the HD2 lacks.

HTCs slick HD2 smartphone seems to have most of what Microsoft wants in a
Windows Phone 7 device except for two buttons too many…

Not that Microsoft is singling our the HD2 as a phone or even HTC as a manufacturer. “Because we have very specific requirements for Windows Phone 7 Series the current phones we have right now will not be upgradable” Kwan explained.

There could be more to this than just the sin of having two buttons too many however: Tony Wilkinson Business Operations Director for Microsoft Australia told APC that “there are some hardware components that the HD doesn’t have”.

We’re not sure what those are because Microsoft has not revealed its complete recipe for Windows Phone 7 devices – that’s due to take place at this month’s MIX developer conference in Las Vegas – but we’ve heard that a pixel-pushing graphics chip might be on the checklist.

For its part Microsoft says it will not abandon the current Windows Mobile 6.x platform once Windows Phone 7 arrives. The OS will be rebranded as Windows Phone Classic and retained for budget-minded smartphone buyers as well as business customers with 6.x-based apps.

“We think there are people who will want 6.5 and the 6.x platform has a lot of enterprise and line of business apps” Kwan says.

Microsoft will update Windows Mobile 6.5 to 6.5.3 before the Windows Phone Classic rebadging takes place and Kwan says this will enhance the experience for 6.5 users.

“A lot of 6.5 applications have been built very much from the old paradigm of the stylus. Those legacy apps will be a lot more compatible on 6.5.3 because we have magnifier technology which lets you use your finger for navigating even though it has a much bigger surface area.”