After over a year in the making, Microsoft is finally launching its Windows Phone Preview for developers. The program will provide registered developers with early access to Windows Phone 8 updates, bypassing the complex and lengthy carrier testing process. Microsoft is specifically targeting developers with this program, but for $19 a year any Windows Phone 8 user can sign up and get early access to updates. Even registered Windows Phone App Studio developers will be able to get early access.
There’s a lot of chatter today about how Microsoft is “bypassing” the carriers to get these updates to consumers, but make no mistake: this is simply the exact same thing as Apple releasing iOS betas to developers (though it’s more expensive to sign up for an iOS dev account — $99 a year). This is not the same thing as pushing these updates to consumers. While anyone can sign up for a developer account, the vast majority of “regular” users will never do that. Those users will still be beholden to the carriers.