Decoupling Built-in Apps from Updates


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Jul 27, 2012
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As an original Samsung Focus (2010) -> Nokia 900 -> Nokia 920 I am seeing a pattern where updates are slow at trickling out and sometimes with carrier blocking and its taking a long time to get updates into the hands of the customer

Note: I am a long time Principle/Senior Software engineer (c++) at a development house with over 160 developers and understands the SDLC. So I am aware of the problems with getting software out the door on time

I was so excited about the Enthusiast program that Terry Myerson talked about in June 2012 but something happened?maybe the software wasn't ready or maybe carriers around the world said ?You do this and we?ll stop supporting your phones?

These things stood out to me
- Google announced late last year (Dec 2012) that they would stop exchange active sync support. Some user were grandfathered in to have multiple calendar support
- Microsoft?s Thomas Fennel admitted that they ran out of time implementing a notification center. This implies that if they had more time/resource for the feature it would have made in the initial 8.0 release
- With XBox music we need an OS update to fix app related bugs!

Either way, there is someone what a work-around to this problem of getting meaningful updates to user (enthusiast or casual user). The solution?make the core application downloadable versus being baked in the core OS!

This is not a new concept see (New Gmail For Android Continues To Decouple Key Apps From Core OS | TechCrunch) as Google realized that one way to beat the fragmentation problem with Android is to decouple the apps from the core OS?and this was in 2010 (the year WP7 was released). This is the best and most effective way to get App updates out to user WITHOUT the carriers sticking their hand into the pot.

Imagine if

  • Alarms (add stop watch, and new look (like Windows 8.1 preview)
  • Calendar (week view, CalDav)
  • IE updates
  • Mail (updates to handle CardDav and IMAP)
  • Office
  • Phone (add caller blocking and more detailed history)
  • Settings (using a plug-in architecture to add additional settings)
  • Xbox music updates happen much quicker

This would reduce the OS update to more system level things such as quick settings, additional tile configuration, size and color, additional display support, different processor support, file support, new OS skins, kernel updates, updated tell me/personal assistance, smarter keyboard support, battery usage and etc

As the owner of the OS they would have access to all the secret/hidden API so that the problem with the temporary/other storage would be a simple app download that would later be baked into the settings

They could easily make a Data Sense Lite and have it as a downloadable app not as part of an OS update.
SIDE NOTE: Why isn't the Data Sense app a downloadable app? I mean really? The fact that AT&T has the ability to strip this feature out is ludicrous. Users just need a data meter and at least the ability find out what apps are the data hogs. I mean how much data is netflix really using? Anyone...Anyone?

They could even have a notification center BETA program where it would only work with 1st party apps and then part of an OS update with new SDK would allow 3rd party apps access to it. BUT it would give the early feedback on the App to integrate into the main OS

We know this can be done as Nokia has updated the HERE map app several times as it wasn?t baked into the OS, they released a storage check app, and used to have a Data Counter app (that was killed for some reason?hmm)

I for one would be less hell bent on reading about the latest updates and waiting on pins/needles if we could have core-app updates throughout the year. Look at how often Windows 8 core apps have been updated through out the year w/o waiting for the next OS release that's blocked by Toshiba, Dell, Lenovo and etc

Look at how MS is running the Facebook App...they have the stable version AS WELL AS a facebook beta that gets the latest updates in a timely manner.

Maybe MS could have a separate Dev Team for each app staffed with hungry idealistic interns and junior developers that brings all kinds of crazy new features. I mean the MS weather app was written by an intern and hasn't been touched(?) since. Imagine if they had a team dedicated to one or more app that they were PASSIONATE about?

For me (emphasize) GDR1,GDR2 and etc hasn't gained me anything THAT couldn't have been done with an app update

wishful thinking..I now I wait for GDR3,GDR4,GDR5 to get much needed App updates. I swear i'd have a phone 'affair' if Apple made a 4.7 phone



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Mar 1, 2012
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I wonder if it is more based on the security model MS uses. I don't any details so this is a guess, but maybe it is built how it is for security reasons. Maybe they feel it would be easier for hackers and malware to attack if setup like this.


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Jul 27, 2012
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I'm not sure of the security model nor do I know anything about developing a secure app. I would hope that the OS would protect apps from 'break-in' attempts.

Using the apps as a download model would allow MS to issues patches quickly! w/o carrier interference or (sigh) carrier testing


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Aug 15, 2011
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I have been wishing this would happen since the announcing of Windows Phone 8, and that because it would share the NT kernel that this would've happened out of the box. Nokia has kind of done this with how they update their system apps, and I was so disappointed to find that apps like Music and other system apps require a full system update, especially when some bugs (like Wifi issues) are urgent enough that carriers shouldn't have the power to restrict them.

In the past, Microsoft has said they allow carriers to block updates up to a certain amount of times because some updates are "feature packed" (presumably), and that the updates that MUST be pushed for security/OS enhancement aren't allowed to be skipped (thus, only the allowance of skipping two updates max, I believe). Microsoft will not budge on this until either they truly decouple system apps (perhaps Windows Phone 8.1 is this because they have been saying it closely follows Windows 8.1), or they get enough market share that carriers' bullying doesn't matter anymore.

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