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Today Instagram and Waze came to the Windows Phone platform, bringing two applications to Microsoft’s smartphone venture that it has long lacked.

Microsoft, through expense and struggle, has managed to build a mobile platform that has achieved something close to exit velocity. It wasn’t long ago that that wasn’t true, and that Windows Phone was more the butt of jokes than something for developers to begin to get to know.

The Windows Phone story remains mixed, but I think it’s trending positive.
— Alex Wilhelm, TechCrunch

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Windows Phone 8 is a stunning operating system. It has matured in functionality since Windows Phone 7, and it is very easy to use. Microsoft has quality hardware partners, too. Nokia’s Lumia 920 is powerful, with a stunning camera, and HTC’s 8X is one of the sleekest, prettiest phones available. As hardware, both can compete with the latest from Apple and Samsung.

The available third-party software is another story, and Microsoft’s core problem: Windows Phone 8 has an app ecosystem weaker than convenience store coffee. Today’s game announcement shows just how far behind it is. Microsoft is repeating the fiasco of its Windows Phone launch announcement, when everybody wanted (and expected) Instagram and got Pandora instead. Now, when everybody is expecting Temple Run: Oz or Candy Crush Saga, we’re getting a handful of old or mediocre (or old and mediocre) games. It’s a repeat of when Microsoft announced that Draw Something had come to the Windows Phone Store, long after the Draw Something craze had passed. The crowds are gone. All that’s left is a lonely app.

The Windows Phone Store is only beginning to look like what the App Store did two years ago. That’s a problem. Windows Phone is going down a beaten path, one iOS and Android have long forgotten. Instead of sprinting ahead, the company looks more and more like a poorly stocked used bookstore. Worse, Microsoft is trying to bill its app releases as something “new.” It wants you to think these refurbished-for-Windows Phone games and apps mean its store is on par with the App Store or Google Play, and its phones compare to the best iOS and Android handsets.

Alexandra Chang | Microsoft Endlessly Disappoints With ‘New’ Windows Phone Apps

Screenshots: Windows Phone 8 and 7.8

However, owing to hardware limitations, or what Microsoft calls “a generation shift in technology”, Windows Phone 7 devices won’t be able to run the full WP8 OS. Instead they will get Windows Phone 7.8, a version that includes some, but not all, of WP8’s enhancements.

My father has a 7.5 device … I’m just curious to see if he will be able to upgrade and what he’ll earn doing so!