Microsoft has confirmed the dates it will end official software support for Windows Phone 8 and Windows Phone 7.8, with both smartphone platforms set to run out of mainstream support in mid-2014. In fact, both phone OS versions will get eighteen months of Microsoft love in total, the company says, with Windows Phone 7.8 ironically outlasting its more capable successor because of its delayed launch.
For Windows Phone 8, which first hit the market - and thus started its lifecycle - on December 14, 2012, Microsoft's official support will run until August 7, 2014. As for Windows Phone 7.8, that saw its lifecycle begin on February 9, 2013, and so will be supported until September 9, 2014.
As for what "mainstream support" actually means, Microsoft defines it as a period of updates and fixes, though warns that what firmware changes actually arrive on individual phones will depend on manufacturer, carrier, and location.
"Microsoft will make updates available for the Operating System on your phone, including security updates, for a period of 18 months after the lifecycle start date" Microsoft
The decision to detail exactly what Windows Phone users can legitimately expect from Microsoft is a commendable one, though it's still no commitment to timely updates or, indeed, any guarantee that the smartphone you buy today may get an upgrade to the next version of the platform. There's also arguably a disconnect between the length of Microsoft's commitment, eighteen months, and the typical twenty-four month agreement most smartphones are sold with.
Microsoft's feelings of obligation do differ in that respect from some of the manufacturers. Speaking to Nokia's smart devices chief Jo Harlow at Mobile World Congress last month, she told SlashGear that the Finnish firm sees its responsibility to users lasting potentially up to twice as long as Microsoft does.
"I think that probably 2-3 years [of software support], certainly within the normal life-cycle that most people would own a phone [could be expected]," Harlow told us. "And that's kind of how we look at it: for most people it's two years, because that's when they renew their plan. And for as long as that phone is being sold in the market, it's two years from there."