Microsoft Corp. surprised mobile-phone software developers last week by reversing its plan to charge them for minor updates and fixes in the programs they submit to its upcoming Windows Mobile application store.

But maybe the switch shouldn’t have been such a surprise.

Microsoft has made a habit of reversing course on policies and practices large and small — including software usage rules, Windows 7 user account configuration, gay rights legislation, and its decision not to require some two dozen laid-off employees to return those accidental overpayments, after all.

In many cases, the decisions are applauded as open-minded responses to feedback from partners and customers. But there’s a fine line between flexibility and chronic flip-flopping. Some industry analysts wonder if the company is too often putting itself in positions that require it to publicly change its mind.

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