Windows Service Packs, Project Pink Rumors Dominated Microsoft Week

Microsoft-related rumors about "Project Pink" smartphones being unveiled April 12, along with more enterprise-centric announcements concerning updates to Exchange Server 2010 and Microsoft Dynamics CRM, dominated the company's news this week. In addition, screenshots and a March 27 build of what is purportedly the Windows 7 Service Pack 1 (SP1) made their way onto the Internet. News from Microsoft and other tech companies found itself largely overshadowed by intense media focus on Apple and its newly released iPad.

News from Microsoft and other tech companies this week was largely eclipsed by Apple, whose iPad tablet dominated headlines during its first days in general release. Nonetheless, a number of rumors surfaced related to several large Microsoft projects, including a Windows 7 Service Pack 1 and "Project Pink," the company's long-speculated branded smartphone initiative.

After Microsoft sent out invitations to a San Francisco event April 12, with the title "It's Time to Share," various online pundits speculated that the company was on the verge of finally revealing Project Pink; the general expectation is that Microsoft will debut two smartphones, dubbed "Turtle" and "Pure" and supposedly aimed at a younger, social-networking-happy demographic. According to the Wall Street Journal, quoting "people familiar with the matter," the phones' hardware has been designed by Sharp.

If the rumors prove true, the debut of Pink would be a logical progression on months of rumors about an imminent unveiling, highlighted by a March report from Reuters that Verizon and Microsoft planned on teaming up to release social-networking-centric devices in either late spring or early summer. Also in March, Gizmodo posted spy images of what was purported to be the "Pure" phone.

While Project Pink is decidedly consumer-oriented, Microsoft made some key enterprise announcements this week; on April 7, Microsoft announced that it would offer a beta of its Exchange Server 2010 Service Pack 1 (SP1) for North American download in June, incorporating a number of changes to the user interface, integrated archiving and other areas.

"SP1 will include fixes and tweaks in areas you've helped us identify, including a roll-up of the roll-ups we've released to date," team member Michael Atalla wrote in an April 7 posting on the Microsoft Exchange Team Blog. "I also wanted to flag some of the feature enhancements we're excited to bring you with Sp1, including archiving and discovery enhancements, [OWA] Outlook Web App ... improvements, mobile user and management improvements, and some highly sought-after additional UI for management tasks."

The SP1 supposedly enhances Exchange Server's archiving functionality, allowing administrators to "provision a user's Personal Archive to a different mailbox database from their primary mailbox," according to Atalla. In effect, this allows an IT administrator to implement tiered storage for certain types of e-mail, while importing historical e-mail data from .pst files directly into Exchange.

A new feature in the SP1 will also create Retention Policy Tags via the Exchange Management Console, automating e-mail archiving and deletion. New UI enhancements to the Exchange Management Console and Exchange Control Panel include the ability to configure Transport Rules and Journal Rules in ECP, in addition to provisioning and configuring the Personal Archive.

Other SP1 changes include tweaks to OWA. "With new work to prefetch message content, the OWA reading experience becomes faster," Atalla wrote. "With delete, mark as read and categorize operations running asynchronously, these actions feel instantaneous to the user." He added: "We've also made sure that certain long-running operations, such as attaching a very large file, will not block the rest of the OWA experience, protecting the user from irritating Web UI hang-ups. You'll see a number of other UI improvements as well to declutter a bit."

In the "Service Pack" category, rumors circulated this week of a Windows 7 Service Pack 1 in the works, with a purported build leaking onto a variety of Torrent Websites. That build had a compile date of March 27, along with the string "build 6.1.7601.16537.amd64fre.win7.100327-0053." Screenshots quickly leaked onto sites such as GeekSmack, which described the download and installation process as "faster than the install process for service packs on Vista."

Microsoft's adjustments to its existing platforms extended to a newly released version of its Microsoft Dynamics CRM customized for non-profits and non-governmental organizations (NGO), with additional tools such as donation and pledge management, basic membership management, basic volunteer tracking, support for online payment solutions and campaign management.

"Nonprofits and NGOs are always challenged with doing more with less," Sarah Barnhart, senior program manager for community affairs at Microsoft, wrote in an April 7 statement. "We see technology as being a key enabler of helping nonprofits to reduce administration and focus their resources on where they can have the biggest impact. Microsoft Dynamics CRM for nonprofits and NGOs includes customized features that simplify administration and management for organizations of every size." This customized version of Microsoft Dynamics CRM is apparently available for $9.99 per seat per month.

Expect Microsoft's news next week to be dominated by Project Pink, if this week's rumors pan out April 12.