Microsoft's Windows Phone 'Tango' Rumors Float

Microsoft is supposedly preparing its Windows Phone "Tango" update for lower-end smartphones.

Over the past day or so, the Microsoft-oriented parts of the blogosphere have chattered mightily about the existence of a stripped-down Windows Phone OS code-named "Tango."

This chatter stems in large part from an Aug. 23 posting on a Hong Kong-based Website titled "We Love Windows Phone," which described Tango as a version of Windows Phone for low-cost hardware, targeted at developing markets (China, India, etc.). According to a Google Translation of the Website, Tango "is not a major update." Supposedly, all this information was confirmed by speakers at a Microsoft seminar in Hong Kong.

Bloggers and journalists on this side of the Pacific quickly picked through the story. "I've heard there are, indeed, two Tango releases on tap," Mary-Jo Foley wrote in an Aug. 24 posting on her All About Microsoft blog. The first one will expand "the Windows Phone footprint into new markets," while the second "will be targeted at low-cost devices and include fixes and new features."

Microsoft is gearing up to release Windows Phone "Mango," a massive update with some 500 new features and tweaks, including expanded functionality for the Xbox Live and Office hubs. The company almost certainly hopes that the revamped software platform, in conjunction with new hardware partners and devices, will help reinvigorate its smartphone franchise, which faces substantial competition from the likes of Apple iPhone and Google Android.

Following Mango, the rumor mill (as exemplified by this Slashgear post) has it that Microsoft will push a major update code-named "Apollo."

Research firm Gartner recently plugged Microsoft's share of the global smartphone market at 1.6 percent for the second quarter of 2011, down from 4.9 percent a year ago. That trails Google Android with 43.4 percent, Nokia's Symbian with 22.1 percent, Apple iOS with 18.2 percent, RIM's BlackBerry franchise with 11.7 percent, and Bada-a mobile OS developed by Samsung-with 1.9 percent.

Other analyst firms have described a similar tumble for Microsoft's smartphone market share. Research firm comScore, for example, recently estimated that Microsoft smartphones declined from 7.5 percent to 5.8 percent of the market for the three-month period ending in June. Those numbers include both Windows Phone and the company's more antiquated Windows Mobile platform, which is being phased out.

If Microsoft introduces a version of Windows Phone for cheaper handsets, it could open up a potentially lucrative market segment-and perhaps give the platform the traction it needs to become a more viable competitor in the space.

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