For most devices, having plenty of hardware buttons makes certain features easier to navigate, but two extra buttons could spell a quick and early obsolescence for the current top-end Windows Mobile device, the HTC HD2. Currently running the soon-to-be-renamed Windows Mobile 6.5, the HD2 may be stuck here unless certain exceptions are made by Microsoft before it officially discloses the full specifications required for the new Windows Phone 7 series.
Originally it was thought that the discovery of additional memory in the US version of the phone was a clear signal that an upgrade was all but clinched for the new model, but now that we know WP7 will require a strict set of hardware requirements, it definitely changes things. Today's news could be a huge blow for those who have already purchased an HD2 and naturally assumed that an upgrade was forthcoming, especially since the hardware specs of the flagship HTC device line up almost perfectly with what Microsoft has been showing off lately.
In an interview with APC Magazine, Natasha Kwan, who just so happens to be the GM for Microsoft's Mobile Communications Business in the Asia-Pacific zone, said the HD2 "doesn't qualify because it doesn't have the three buttons." Since the extra buttons are merely the physical "Call" and "End" buttons, it's hard to imagine that Microsoft would penalize HTC for something as trivial as this.
Without official confirmation from Redmond, which would possibly hurt current sales of WM handsets, we are left with one other potential reason for the lack of an upgrade. In the same interview, Tony Wilkerson, Business Operations Director for Microsoft Australia, speculates that the real reason may be because "there are some hardware components that the HD2 doesn't have." Could it be the lack of a dedicated graphics processor? This would make sense, with the new Zune HD-like interface probably requiring a bit more horsepower to move all those fancy bits.
We'll have to wait and see how this pans out, which could make T-Mobile's HD2 launch DOA next month, not to mention taking my interest level in the US-spec HD2 down to zero. Even though Microsoft has said all the right things about keeping Windows Mobile alive as a "Classic" version to be used on lower-end and legacy devices, the writing is on the wall as far as WM 6.5 being a dead-end platform as we move further into the world of capacitive displays and stylus-free interaction.