Orion

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Nokia product codenames reveal little in latest leak

Evleaks, the Twitter account that has been behind Windows Phone hardware leaks in the past, has now fired out numerous codenames that are reported to be hints at future handsets from Nokia. These codenames include the "Bandit," which is billed as a 6-inch 'phablet'. While this leak doesn't reveal much, it's handy to have them jotted down somewhere for future reference, should further details eventually emerge.

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We reported a few weeks ago about the whole "location tracking" issue, which was started by the iPhone, proceeded by concerns on Android and finally Windows Phone, which was mostly exonerated from the controversy.

Regardless of the lack of tracking, Microsoft is looking to be more transparent on the matter than some other companies and in turn has directly responded to the U.S. government's 'House Energy and Commerce Committee' request for explanation on their practices when collecting data on user's whereabouts. From the lengthy and thorough document:

The collection and use of location data by smart phones can serve a variety of purposes.It therefore is worth clarifying at the outset that the term “location data” can refer to two related but conceptually distinct categories of data: (1) data that is used to determine the approximate location of a device for use by an application; and (2) data that identifies specifically where a device is or has been. The Windows Phone 7 operating system is designed to focus squarely on the first category, and we have taken steps to avoid collecting the type of data described in the second category, which can facilitate user tracking.

...This database snippet contains information about nearby WiFi access points and cell towers in the area (on average a 5-6 square kilometer area) where the user made the request. It does not show where a user is or has been within that area.

...Similar to other operating systems, when Microsoft first designed and implemented location services for Windows Phone 7, it programmed its system to collect device identifiers and store them for a limited time. While collecting device identifiers can help assemble and refine a database of available WiFi access points and cell towers more quickly and effectively than without them, these identifiers have diminishing value over time. Given the declining utility of device identifiers, Microsoft recently discontinued its storage and use of device identifiers. Further, as part of its next scheduled update to existing Windows Phone 7 devices,updated devices will no longer send device identifiers to the location service and new phones arriving this fall will not send device identifiers to the location service. [Emphasis, ours]

Anyways, it's all actually very interesting stuff if you want to know how the Windows Phone location based system (aka 'Orion') works. And it's always nice to see Microsoft being so open about its practices. Find anything we missed, holla in comments.

Source: U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee (PDF); via WinRumors

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Today in a press release, Navizon announced their partnership with Microsoft to share their global location database. Presumably, this database will be used with Windows phone 7 although no word on Windows Mobile 6.5.

Navizon, for those who don't remember, have a Windows Mobile program called Mobifindr, which allows you to find your phone via text message or locate your friends. More importantly, they featured a "virtual GPS" system whereby your location could be ascertained via WiFi and/or cell-tower triangulation. This was a bigger deal in 2008 when GPS was still not the norm on many WM phones.

This deal actually makes a lot of sense since we know Windows Phone 7 Series uses 'Orion', the same location-bases service found in Windows 7. It too uses WiFi, cell-tower triangulation, IP detection and straight up GPS to identify your location with a simple API. So Microsoft has the hardware/software to find your location (coordinates), but what they don't have is access to some type of database of locations.

Unlike Google, who can collect your geo-location information via millions of cell phones (read that user agreement), Microsoft is still new to the whole location-based services game.  This deal with Navizon seems to give them that extra edge to compete with Google.

[Navizon press release]

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Okay everyone, time to put on your rumor helmets (they're like beer helmets, but filled with vodka). Here's what we are hearing about Windows Mobile 7 from various sources (none of which has been announced by Microsoft). 

We'll spill the beans on what we're hearing about supposed various versions of Seven, two WM7 devices including full specs (the LG "Apollo" and HTC "Obsession") time-frames and even features.

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MobileTechWorld has done some digging and found a recent job posting for Microsoft, specifically for their 'Windows Mobile 7 Communications group' which is seeking to "... bring social networks to life by integrating them into the core experience of the phone".

Now none of this should come as a surprise per se — social networks are the current and next big thing on smartphones.  Combined with what I refer to as "personal GPS" (i.e. not just for driving) and you have a method for near universal awareness of location (i.e. Google Latitude), status (Facebook), thoughts (Twitter) of all you friends, family and colleagues.

What of course is missing currently from Windows Mobile is a way to integrate all that information into "...a single hub on the phone" as his job ad rightly points out. (See this mockup video for what Microsoft probably intends).

It would seem natural for this "social hub" to be combined with Microsoft's future cloud-location-service called "Orion" (you heard it here first), which will provide aGPS services for all future Windows Mobile 7 devices, including extremely fast signal locks via various methods (trilateration, WiFi networks, GPS) in ...the storage platform (Unified Store)" a possible reference to Mesh.  Finally, the team seems to be interested in defining API's for 3rd party services to build off of for seamless fusion with the core Microsoft is providing.

The somewhat bad news is that this seems to be a recent job posting, meaning WM7, at least in this regard, is still behind a bit from being anywhere near finalized. On the other hand, Microsoft seems serious (if not late) in attempting to redefine social interaction on smartphones.  We can't wait.

Read the full job description after the break. 

[MobileTechWolrd via Twitter/UX Evangelist]

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