Hypothetical: The implications of not bringing Windows RT to current handsets
As a Windows Phone user for the last year (and recent purchaser of a Lumia 900), I've been reflecting on the conflicting news stories from yesterday and here are some of my thoughts.
We can all safely assume that windows Phone 8 will be build on top of Windows RT. The current foundation of Windows Phone, Windows CE is going away.
Microsoft has already stated on the record that all WP7.5 apps will work on Windows Phone 8. That's a great story for devs but that's like saying that electrity will work in all the flying cars.. Until those exist, it's a completely meaningless boast.
So in the best case scenario, where does that leave us?
Burning the Faithful
If Microsoft does decides that windows Phone 7.5 devices aren't worth upgrading and are sunset at Windows Phone 7.5.1 or 7.8 or whatever they'll end up calling Tango, the very best we can expect with a Marketplace filled with 80,000 to 100,000 peices of abandonware. Devs will move on to Windows Phone 8 and develop with WinRT. A lot of them will be taking advantage of the highly reusable code with Windows 8 and the tablets. If that code does not work on our devices, we'll be out of luck.
To be able to run all this would require Windows Phone 7.5 to be re-build on a Windows RT core. This would allow app compatibility across the board and devs could maintain their 800x480 apps in the new SDK while building experiences for the newer supported resolutions, something akin to what Apple did with the retina display. If they don't do at least this, Microsoft will be done in the mobile/phone space and run the risk of taking out their tablet market in the same breath. Who's going to trust a company that completely rebooted their mobile strategy twice in 2 years.
Even though a lot of this will be happening much later on this year, I can't help but feel like the early adopters are being hung out to dry as opposed to embraced.
If they do take the no upgrade road, dropping support for all Windows Phone 7.5 users is a huge compromise for a platform that was supposed to have "No Compromises".
Just wait for official word
The one glimmer of hope for me here remains Nokia. If Microsoft (again if) doesn't upgrade current WP7.5 devices, this will completely break them and this is definately not in Microsoft's best interest to do. Forget about their glorious re-entry in the US market. Any remaining shred of trust in that brand will be destroyed and OEM's will be even more wary of dealing with them.