Microsoft has refused to comment on rumors that it plans to roll out two branded smartphones early in 2010, a move that would put it even more directly in competition with Apple, Palm and Research In Motion’s BlackBerry in the mobile space.
While Microsoft has already been battling other IT giants with its Windows Mobile line of operating systems, the smartphones-if confirmed-would mark the company’s first move into actual smartphone devices. The rumors, widely reported over the weekend on sites such as Engadget, suggest that Microsoft will release two slider phones, one code-named “Turtle” and the other “Pure.”
That “Turtle” name apparently comes from the rumored device’s boxy shape. Rumors on sites such as 9to5Mac have alleged that the devices will be developed hand-in-hand with the team from Danger, which Microsoft acquired earlier in 2009 and incorporated into its Premium Mobile Experiences (PMX) team, a division of its Mobile Communications Business (MCB). The actual Microsoft smartphones would be manufactured by Sharp, which also produced the Sidekick, previously a Danger product.
When contacted by eWEEK, a Microsoft spokesperson responded with a standard issue, “Microsoft does not comment on rumor or speculation. We can only comment on initiatives that are public and in market.”
Microsoft has previously shot down rumors of an imminent move into the smartphone space. In April, responding to rumors that it was developing a touch-screen smartphone under the code name “Pink” with Verizon, Microsoft told reporters that it is “not going into the phone hardware business.”
Rumors of Project Pink have continued to persist nonetheless. The CES trade show, slated for early January, would likely be the next big venue for a sighting of such a Microsoft-branded device.
In the meantime, Microsoft has been attempting to make headway against the iPhone, the Palm Pre and the BlackBerry line with the upcoming Windows Mobile 6.5, its mobile operating system. The newest version of the software includes interface features such as improved touch capabilities and customizable widgets designed to help it compete better in the consumer marketplace.
Paired with Windows Marketplace for Mobile, which Microsoft is hoping to stock with some 600 downloadable applications before the new operating system’s October release, Redmond is rolling out Mobile 6.5 on a wide variety of phones, including ones manufactured by HTC, LG Electronics, Samsung, Hewlett-Packard and Toshiba. Networks supporting the operating system will include AT&T, Bell Mobility, TELUS and Verizon Wireless.
Even with increased smartphone sales in the second quarter of 2009, Microsoft has found itself struggling to hold onto its share of the mobile-device OS market; in that same quarter, its market share fell to around 9 percent. As part of what it hopes will be a more robust competitive profile, Microsoft could release yet another updated mobile operating system, Windows Mobile 7, in the fourth quarter of 2010-but that, just as with the blogosphere reports of the two new smartphones, remains rumor for the moment.