New HTC Windows Phones But Tracker Lawsuit Looms

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HTC offered a glimpse of Mango devices – just as a lawsuit landed claiming illicit Microsoft user tracking

Despite a court action accusing Microsoft of illicit location tracking, the company would rather divert attention to the growing support for its “Mango” release of Windows Phone 7.

Manufacturing partners are gearing up for the release of the wide-ranging Mango update to Windows Phone, with HTC announcing plans to release a pair of Windows Phone models in October that demonstrate support for front-facing cameras.

On Parade, Facing Front

The first HTC product is the Titan which includes a 4.7-inch screen and front-facing camera (FFC). The second, Radar,  encloses its screen within an aluminium shell and also includes a front lens.

“A lot of you have asked us whether Mango will support front-facing cameras – and now that these HTC phones have been formally announced – I can confirm, officially, that Mango does support them,” Joe Belfiore, corporate vice president of Windows Phone Programme Management, wrote in a posting on theWindows Phone Blog. “We’ve included support for ‘switching to FFC’ for photo/video shooting into the native camera experience, and we’ve added API support to the application platform.”

Alongside HTC, Acer, LG Electronics, Nokia, Samsung and ZTE have all committed to building Windows Phone devices preloaded with Mango but have yet to outline actual models. In addition to the FFC support, around 500 new elements have been included in the update, including expanded functionality for Xbox Live and Office hubs, new multi-tasking abilities and the search engine Bing deeply baked into the user interface.

According to the latest rumours, Microsoft is also preparing a stripped-down version of Windows Phone, codenamed “Tango”, for lower-end smartphones. This talk stems, in large part, from a posting on the Hong Kong-based Website, We Love Windows Phone, which described Tango as a version of Windows Phone for low-cost hardware, targeted at developing markets, such as China and India.

According to a Google Translation of the Website, Tango “is not a major update”. Reportedly, this information was released by speakers at a Microsoft seminar in Hong Kong, after which bloggers and journalists worldwide quickly picked up on the story.

Whatever its plans may be, Microsoft clearly needs Windows Phone to be a success, if only to reclaim the initiative in the smartphone space. According to fresh data from research firm Nielsen, Windows Phone owned just one percent of the US smartphone market in July, lagging behind Google Android, Apple iPhone, Research In Motion BlackBerry and the increasingly antiquated Windows Mobile franchise.

Courting Controversy

In the face of the good news, Microsoft is facing a lawsuit filed in a Seattle federal court by a Windows Phone 7 user. The suit alleges the smartphone’s camera software transmits users’ location data even after the function is “switched off”.

Microsoft has insisted to the US Congress that it only collects smartphone users’ geolocation data with consent, something the lawsuit alleges is “false”. According to Reuters, the case suit was filed by Rebecca Cousineau “individually on her own behalf and on behalf of all others similarly situated”.

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