Will Windows Phone 8 makers be more free to tweak the OS?

A purported agenda item for an upcoming Microsoft summit on the new mobile OS points to customization opportunities as one of the key topics.

Will Windows Phone 8 be more open to customization?
Will Windows Phone 8 be more open to customization? Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

Windows Phone 8 device makers could find more opportunities to tweak the OS, at least if you read between the lines from an agenda reportedly for an upcoming Microsoft summit.

A "high level" agenda for an "Apollo" MO Summit in Reading, U.K., uncovered by Netbooknews, lists "Customization and Differentiation opportunities" as one of the topics.

Of course, that doesn't necessarily mean Microsoft is about to open the floodgates for manufacturers to tinker with the interface. But assuming the information is accurate, it could point to a more open environment for Windows Phone 8, aka Apollo.

A spokesperson told CNET that Microsoft had no comment on on this matter.

The company has retained a fairly tight grip on Windows Phone, triggering complaints from some manufacturers who like to tweak the interface to distinguish themselves from the competition.

But either way, Microsoft needs to tread carefully here as too much customization isn't always a good thing.

Apple is able to maintain complete reign of iOS by controlling both the hardware and software, promising the same interface and experience for all iPhone and iPad users.

Though many gripe about the closed nature of iOS, such control ensures that upgrades, updates, and other features work across the entire lineup.

Google maintains no tight control over Android, allowing manufacturers to customize the interface as they see fit. Sometimes that freedom can benefit consumers. Samsung's TouchWiz interface runs on top of the OS and provides certain features not offered by Android alone.

But in other cases, too much tinkering can lead to confusion and fragmentation, a complaint often hurled at the Android ecosystem. Upgrades and other new features typically need to be rolled out per device and per carrier, stretching the amount of time that users have to wait for the latest updates.

If Microsoft does open up Windows Phone, it needs to work with its partners to ensure that they can tweak the interface without confusing consumers and fragmenting a product that's just starting to gain some traction.

Updated 11:15 a.m. PT with response from Microsoft.

 

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