Microsoft is preparing to launch two branded smartphones with a sliding keyboard, the realization of its long-rumored and longer-gestating “Project Pink,” according to reports. The devices would be targeted at a younger demographic and feature a heavy emphasis on features such as social networking, despite the presence of a physical keyboard that is nominally the hallmark of business-centric smartphones.
According to a March 5 Reuters report, quoting unnamed sources, Microsoft will team with Verizon to launch a pair of smartphones in either late spring or early summer. The devices will be tailored toward social networking, those sources claim. Meanwhile, tech blog Gizmodo has posted what it claims are leaked images for one of the phones, the “Pure,” while claiming via a tipster that the devices’ operating system is based on Windows CE.
For months, rumors have circulated that Microsoft was developing two branded smartphones with a sliding form-factor under the Project Pink moniker. In September 2009, a burst of scuttlebutt suggested that the smartphones would be codenamed Turtle and Pure, and developed hand-in-hand with Danger, a company that Microsoft acquired in 2009 and incorporated into its Premium Mobile Experiences (PMX) team, a division of its Mobile Communications Business (MCB).
Gizmodo’s source also suggested that the Turtle would have a 320 by 240 screen, the Pure a 480 by 320 screen, and that the actual names for both devices would be different than their code names. A supposedly leaked image for a Microsoft-Verizon ad for the Turtle can be found here. If rumors hold true, then the devices, which will include sliding QWERTY keyboard, will be manufactured by Sharp, which also produced the Sidekick.
In October 2009, a hardware issue on servers being run by Danger resulted in the personal data being wiped from nearly 800,000 Sidekick users’ phones. In the wake of that incident, T-Mobile temporarily pulled the Sidekick, which it sold exclusively, from its sales channels.
At the time, Microsoft promised that its engineers were busy working to restore user data, including photographs and to-do lists, but Sidekick users began complaining on T-Mobile’s forums that their data was only partially restored. T-Mobile, meanwhile, offered Sidekick customers a $100 T-Mobile gift card and a month of free data service, although a number of those forum commenters seemed to find that insufficient.
Microsoft plans on rolling out the next generation of its smartphone operating system, Windows Phone 7 Series, at an as-yet-undefined point near the end of 2010. Designed as a clean break from its Windows Mobile franchise, which has suffered declining market share in the face of stiff competition from Apple’s iPhone and other devices, Windows Phone 7 Series will be paired with all-new devices from manufacturers.
The late-2010 timeframe for the new smartphone operating system, however, means that any Microsoft-branded devices released before that point will likely be running a different software platform. The unnamed leaker for Gizmodo’s posting seemed to suggest that the two upcoming devices would have a modified operating system based on Windows CE, but reminiscent of the user experience for Microsoft’s Zune and Windows Phone 7. The emphasis on social networking suggests the devices would be potentially marketed toward a younger demographic.