Mobile Tech

Pink Haze Surrounds Microsoft Smartphone Rumors

Microsoft is reportedly getting set to show off two new smartphones early next year as part of its so-called Pink project.

Writing on the 9to5Mac blog, Cleve Nettles cites an unnamed source in reporting that the devices will likely debut at the Consumer Electronics Show, to be held in Las Vegas Jan. 7 through 10.

The smartphones are apparently the result of work done under a project code-named “Pink.”

Smartphone Gossip

The two devices, according to the report, will be slider phones developed under Microsoft’s secret Project Pink.

They stem from Microsoft’s purchase last year of Danger, maker of T-Mobile’s Sidekick devices.

Microsoft will continue to use Danger’s manufacturing partner, Sharp, and the devices will be cobranded by both companies, the report states.

One reason for that is Danger’s historical ties with Sharp. “Given that, it wouldn’t surprise me if at least one of the handsets was made by Sharp,” Julien Blin, principal analyst and CEO of JBB Research, told TechNewsWorld.

Another reason could be that Redmond simply has so few plausible alternatives. “Many of Microsoft’s smartphone handset partners have left or are thinking about it,” said Allen Nogee, a principal analyst at In-Stat. Palm, for example, recently announced that it is dropping Windows Mobile devices and is devoting itself full-time to its own operating system, he told TechNewsWorld.

Meanwhile, Taiwanese manufacturer HTC, which got its start making Windows smartphones, is moving strongly toward Android. “HTC totally reworked the user interface of Microsoft phones to the extent that they don’t even appear to be Microsoft phones,” Nogee said. “It can do the same thing with Android and save all the royalties it must pay Microsoft.”

However, Microsoft will not likely begin making its own hardware — CEO Steve Ballmer has previously ruled that out.

Going for the Apps

The supposed Pink smartphones will likely retain Danger’s app store model — Danger had an app store two years before Apple launched the iTunes App Store in July 2008, according to the 9to5 blog.

“Increasingly, users’ desktops are no further than the palms of their hands — in other words, their smartphones,” said Laura DiDio, principal at ITIC. “Microsoft is acutely aware that if they don’t address this trend, competitors will.”

That could see Redmond forfeiting “a lot” of revenue in the short term and seriously compromising the continuing relevance of its core Office applications as the world goes mobile, DiDio told TechNewsWorld.

However, Microsoft has yet to get its app store off the ground. The store is scheduled to be live sometime this fall.

More Rumors and Rumblings

This supposed Pink leak has given new life to a report that surfaced earlier this year in The Wall Street Journal that Microsoft was holding talks with Verizon about developing a smartphone.

Using Verizon as the carrier for the purported upcoming Pink devices would make sense, considering that Verizon is the largest wireless carrier in the United States. The two have also partnered closely in the Web search and advertising area since earlier this year.

Redmond’s Reply

Microsoft was tight-lipped when asked about the smartphone rumors. “We can only comment on initiatives that are public and in market,” spokesperson Debbie Anderson told TechNewsWorld.

Microsoft’s supposed Project Pink has been providing grist for the Redmond rumor mill for nearly a year.

Last November, the story was that Microsoft would combine the Zune personal media player with technology from Danger to create a Zune phone that would take on the iPhone. Such a phone, of course, has not surfaced.

“Myriad rumors have swirled about what devices might be included as part of Pink Project since last spring,” ITIC’s DiDio said. “Pink Project is still a big question mark, rather than a real project.”

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