Microsoft’s soon to be released Windows Phone 7 will not support connecting tethered devices despite earlier Microsoft assurances that it would.
Tethering is a feature whereby a smartphone shares it’s Internet connection with a connected device, over Wi-Fi or USB, so the connected device can gain broadband Internet connectivity using the smartphone’s 3G capabilities.
Speaking on the Windows Weekly podcast last week Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 boss Brandon Watson indicated that the new smartphone operating system would support tethering if carriers allowed the feature to be used. However a Microsoft representative subsequently contacted the Boy Genius Report and indicated simply "Windows phone 7 does not support tethering" without saying why.
Traditionally mobile carriers have been luke warm on smartphone tethering because it hurt the viability of so-called unlimited data plans for smartphones such as commonly seen for the Apple iPhone. If the user is limited to using a smartphone then the maximum amount of data they will use is rather less than tethering a laptop and using the connection as an all-you-can-eat broadband connection.
However the demand for tethering has grown and even the iPhone now offers the feature while Android handsets have had the capability for some time. Tethering becoming more commonplace has lead an increasing amount of carriers to move to usage-based plans with all of the US networks following this lead including yesterday’s announcement that Verizon would stop selling unlimited plans also.
The remaining reason for Microsoft to rule out even the option of tethering on Windows Phone 7 is because it would prefer to have owners of new handsets using the features on the phone itself including buying music and applications for which the company gets a cut.
The lack of tethering makes Windows Phone 7 the only high end smartphone offering that does not offer the feature. Microsoft’s decision hints at a return of ‘unlimited’ data packages when all of the big five UK networks launch Windows Phone 7 devices later in the year.