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HTC's Windows Phone 7 plans: Making Sense?

The handset maker is said to be porting some version of its Sense UI to the new smartphone platform, but maybe not on one device recently spotted in the wild.

Amid reports that HTC is working hard to bring its Sense user interface to Windows Phone 7 gadgets, there's been at least one reported sighting of just such a phone that lacks Sense.

A tipster has shared with Engadget some details of a "mystery HTC Windows Phone 7 device" that the gadget blog describes as likely a developer build with hardware that's ready to go. But the phone doesn't seem to have a Sense skin atop the Windows Phone 7 OS, according to the report.

Windows Phone 7.
Windows Phone 7. Flora Graham/CNET UK

Smartphone makers typically tweak the user interface of the handsets they sell to give them a personalized look and feel. But with Windows Phone 7, set to debut by year's end, Microsoft is limiting the changes that manufacturers can make to the UI.

That apparently hasn't deterred HTC, which is said to be looking to graft some version of its Sense UI onto the new mobile OS. "Microsoft has taken firmer control of the core experience [in Windows Phone 7], but we can still innovate," Drew Bamford, head of HTC's user experience design team, told Forbes in an interview last week. "We won't be able to replace as much of the core Windows Phone experience, but we will augment it."

The Sense UI has already found a home on other HTC handsets, including the Windows Mobile 6.5-based HD2 and the Android-based Hero.

Reports say that with the upcoming release of Android 3.0 Gingerbread, Google will restrict the tweaks that handset manufacturers can make to the UI. But here too, HTC doesn't see a problem. "Google may focus more on improving the user interface on the stock Android [software], but I don't think they'll preclude manufacturer customization," Bamford told Forbes.

Microsoft reportedly has lined up an array of partners besides HTC to manufacture smartphones running Windows Phone 7. Dell, Asus, LG, and Samsung are all apparently looking at making devices sporting the new OS.