Windows Mobile 6.5 devices not upgradeable to Windows Phone 7, says Microsoft

Anyone who has bought a high-powered Windows Mobile 6.5 device recently, like HTC’s HD2, is probably regretting their purchase now. Microsoft employees have confirmed that current Windows Mobile 6.5 devices do not meet the minimum hardware requirements for the new Windows Phone 7 Series operating system, and subsequently aren’t eligible for upgrade when the new OS launches later this year.

The news comes from Australian site APC, which received confirmation from two Microsoft employees. Their reasoning for the HD2’s disqualification in particular ranges from the ridiculous — the phone doesn’t have the required three face buttons (it has five), according to Natasha Kwan, General Manager for Microsoft’s Mobile Communications Business in the Asia-Pacific region — to the mysterious —  it lacks certain other hardware components, according to Tony Wilkinson, Business Operations Director for Microsoft Australia.

I could see Microsoft being lenient about the button requirement in Windows Mobile 6.x devices, but the HD2’s missing (and likely internal) hardware components point to a bigger gap between WinMo 6.5 and Windows Phone 7 devices.

We don’t know the full hardware requirement checklist for Windows Phone 7 Series yet — that will be revealed later this month — but I’d bet that the new platform will require heavy-duty 3D graphics hardware that doesn’t exist in any WinMo 6.5 device yet. Given that the HD2 runs a powerful 1Ghz processor and still didn’t make the cut, it seems that Microsoft has set the bar high for 7 Series devices.

Kwan stresses that Microsoft won’t be giving up on Windows Mobile 6.5 devices entirely. The OS will be rebranded “Windows Phone Classic” once Phone 7 Series launches and will be targeted at budget-conscious buyers and enterprise users who rely on legacy WinMo 6 apps.

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