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Microsoft intros location-based Windows Phone app

Microsoft has decided to take location-based service Foursquare on with the launch of Windows Phone app from its Bing team dubbed "We're in."

The concept for the app is simple, and familiar to anyone who's used Foursquare, Google's Latitude, or Facebook's Places: tracking your location via your smartphone's inbuilt GPS, the software allows you to 'check in' to locations so your friends know exactly where you are.

The benefit for Microsoft, of course, is that it also knows where you are. That information can then be sold on to advertisers and location owners, and is tipped to be a major goldmine for the advertising industry over the next few years.

While Microsoft's app is clearly inspired by Foursquare, it does bring something new of its own to the table: rather than tracking everyone all the time, the software is based around a time-based invitation method.

If you want to meet your friends at a restaurant, for example, you specify the location and when everyone should meet. The invitation is then sent out, and you can see exactly how close everyone is to arriving at the venue. Once the event is over, the invite expires and everyone goes back to being hidden on the map once again.

Users can choose to ignore the invite, or hide their location after accepting by hitting 'leave.' The app also has a microblogging twist, allowing users to post status updates as to exactly why they're ten minutes late and still nowhere near the agreed location.

It's a neat concept, and one that could genuinely make organising a group of people significantly easier - but it's currently only available on Windows Phone devices, through the Zune Marketplace. If you know nobody you'd want to hang around with that has an iPhone, BlackBerry, or Android device, then that's fine - otherwise it's a bit limited.

Thankfully, Microsoft has announced that it will be delivering the software on other platforms in the near future, but has yet to confirm precisely which other platforms it has in mind. The chances are, however, it's not thinking about a webOS port.

There's a bigger problem afoot, however: the software is currently only available to Windows Phone users in the US. "Regulations covering the use of location data vary by geography," explained a Bing Team spokesperson, "which prevents us from releasing this worldwide. We hope to roll out more broadly in the future."