Editorial

What is Microsoft's Pink and is it destined to fail?

With Microsoft and Verizon set to finally reveal the outcome of Project Pink on Monday, here we give you a preview of what to expect and try and explain just what this mysterious project is, and why it might have failed before it even launches...

Back in February 2008, Microsoft agreed to acquire Danger for an estimated $500 million. Danger manufactured the Danger Hiptop smartphone, also known as the T-Mobile Sidekick - a device with a young user base and many features centered around social interactions, things which Microsoft's Windows Mobile offerings seemed to be lacking.

Following the acquisition, Danger was integrated into the fairly recently formed Project Pink team in the Premium Mobile Experiences (PMX) group at Microsoft, led by Roz Ho. PMX itself is part of the Mobile Communications Business (MCB) unit, which is part of the Entertainment and Devices Division - the same division as Zune and Xbox. Danger co-founders Matt Hershenson and Joe Britt joined Microsoft, whilst the other, Andy Rubin, went on to co-found Android, which was ironically then acquired by Google to form the basis of their Android mobile operating system.

The initial idea of the Pink team seemed to be to make a Zune phone (despite the idea always being rejected officially by Microsoft) by taking the Zune functionality and adding it to Windows Phone-like software. It seems somewhat strange then that the Danger staff continued to work out of their old offices and the Pink group worked completely separately of Windows Mobile and Zune.

But the acquisition gets even stranger. The operating system on the existing Danger device was based on Java, something which Microsoft stays well clear from. So if they couldn't build on what they were getting, why did Microsoft just buy a business - which had been losing money - for half a billion dollars? Apparently the deal was aimed at gaining some new talented and experienced developers and managers to try and take the Pink project forward, with Microsoft planning to use Danger's basic ideas to build a new experience.

However, it has since emerged that almost as soon as the deal had been done, much of Danger's talent were given lower down jobs within the PMX group and Microsoft revealed that it did not want to take the same creative path as Danger had. 300 employees joined Microsoft as a result of the acquisition yet another 200 were also brought onto the Pink team from elsewhere. When Microsoft decided to cut jobs in an attempt to reduce costs, many former Danger employees were fired, and many others have chosen to leave.

Despite initial suggestions that Pink phones may be branded as either Zune or Windows Phone, it now seems that they may not even say Microsoft on them. However, as with the Zune and Xbox teams in the same Entertainment and Devices Division, and unlike with Windows Phone 7, Microsoft will have complete control of the hardware of the devices. Their manufacturer of choice is expected to be Sharp, who also made the hardware for many of the old Danger devices.

Compared to Windows Phone 7, Pink devices will offer a more integrated and closely designed experience between the hardware and the software. They are expected to be lower end of the market phones than Windows Phone 7 devices whilst providing some of the main features, albeit in a more basic way. But will the two platforms compete against each other too much? With Pink only on devices that Microsoft makes and Windows Phone only on devices that it doesn't, it will be hoping to avoid the difficult clash that Google face with the Nexus One where the OS creator competes with its own rival device directly with those that it licenses to.

There may be a fine line between doing this successfully and annoying other manufacturers that use Windows Phone, but Microsoft see Pink as a phone more aimed at the young and as users grow older they could easily switch over to a Windows Phone. The two platforms will not be that similar, however. It is thought that the original plan was to base the Pink OS on Windows Phone 7, but with that taking longer than expected it had to be based directly on Windows CE (as Windows Phone 7 also is) and doing this all themselves required more work and took the team longer. As such, although there are similarities between the two they are thought to be unable to run the same applications.

This wasn't the only delay faced by Pink. Technology from other product teams, such as the Zune team, is key to the devices and many bits external to the Pink group were not done on time, creating further delays. With one source revealing that the project was two years behind schedule at one stage, this meant that features had to be cut from the product, with an app marketplace, games (powered by XNA), a calendar and an alarm clock all apparently being dropped, in what will surely be an unsuccessful move. When Pink was finally expected to hit the spotlight at CES in January it was a no-show. Presumably held up by more delays, the next opportunity for it to be shown off was at MWC, but Microsoft decided to focus themselves at that event entirely on the new Windows Phone 7.

Within the development team, many are said to "hate the product" and feel that their product was never intended to ship but more to "challenge [the Windows Mobile 7 team] and upset them into competing." Having to design 4 different end-products is also said to have slowed the development down. The two Turtle and Pure phones were both to be made as UMTS and CDMA as well, Turtle and Pure being UMTS and Pride and Lion being the same respective models as CDMA (from what I gather). It is more complex than you might think to develop for both at once, especially when there are two different devices for each. It now seems that only one set of the models will exist, with either CDMA or UMTS support being dropped.

So what of the actual phones themselves. Whilst they may have ended up more as feature phones than smartphones, they still have some decent features. These are meant to be social devices so on top of the standard phone features they should support email, web browsing, Windows Live, AIM and Yahoo! instant messaging, the ability to publish photos directly to Facebook and MySpace, the ability to set your status on Twitter, Facebook and MySpace, and access to Zune's music service. They can presumably be synced through the Zune PC software and should both feature a headphone jack and a camera. The Turtle is expected to have a screen resolution of 320 x 240 and the Pure being larger at 480 x 320.

Project Pink seems to have been plagued with problems from day one, some of which could eventually lead to its downfall. On Monday we should finally see whether these have been ironed out and Microsoft have managed to produce the youth-friendly social phone that they set out to do, and whether it is at a high enough standard to do well with customers and provide Microsoft with their first real fightback in the consumer phone market.

Thanks to Apple Insider, Microsoft PressPass, Conflipper, Mary-Jo Foley and MobileCrunch, amongst others, for information used.

Report a problem with article
Previous Story

Steve Jobs on SDK complaints: “intermediate layers produce sub-standard apps"

Next Story

Flash CS5 will export to HTML5 Canvas

46 Comments

Commenting is disabled on this article.

How can you express even an opinion about something of which nobody knows anything?
So, the question in the article is irrelevant by now.

DaveGreen said,
How can you express even an opinion about something of which nobody knows anything?
So, the question in the article is irrelevant by now.

Agreed. I particularly like the following rumors:
1) It won't be compatible with Windows Phone 7 software.
- Really? This would be a big oversight by Microsoft, and I'm sure if they wanted they could get Silverlight support on these devices just as they did Windows Phone 7...
2) It won't have a calendar.
- With the popularity of calendars on all types of phones, this would just be a shocking oversight.
3) It won't have an alarm clock.
- This has to be the easiest part of the software for them to do... And it's also used by a lot of people on various phone types... So this wouldn't make any sense either...
4) The developers don't like the OS.
- Not even sure what to say to this... lol

Personally, as all of this is rumor and a good deal of it VERY hard to believe, it would have been nice to see citations made as to where this was attained... Because it all seems very odd.

buy a company with limited success in the past screw it around try to make something new while everything changes over a few years (myspace, bebo etc anyone ?) and what do you have ? a product so behind the times packed full of features everything else has and nothing to justify it's purpose or existence especially in the mish mash of all their other products. They should just cancel the project fire rest of the danger related people and accept it was a dumb move buying them.

Regression_88 said,
What's "UTMS"? Just kidding. I reported the problem- it's UMTS, not UTMS.

UMTS is based on / evolved from CDMA, as 1xRTT / EVDO are.
Maybe you would've been better to say "AT&T and T-Mobile" (major UMTS carriers in the USA) and "Sprint and Verizon" (major 1xRTT / EVDO carriers in the USA)?

Would would really interest me though, is the application of the technology to LTE and WiMax. Sprint is rolling out WiMax (via Clearwire) and VZW is building LTE sites. ATT is planning on deploying LTE but they're in the middle of an intermediate update to UMTS / HSPDA so will be lagging VZW by a fair margin.

Someone should get some "crapp for that".

HeLGeN-X said,
I am starting to think Neowin staff wants all Microsoft products to fail.

In all fairness, not too long ago this would've been the "Is iPad Apple's iFail?" thread and you would've been a random iFanboy accusing Neowin of being a bunch of M$ lovers.

Joshie said,

In all fairness, not too long ago this would've been the "Is iPad Apple's iFail?" thread and you would've been a random iFanboy accusing Neowin of being a bunch of M$ lovers.

On the contrary, I am a Microsoft fanboy

Thats it. The Pink can only fail depending on the targets set. The target set is small and a certain market, its not set to take on the world and replace Android and iPhone.

evo_spook said,
Thats it. The Pink can only fail depending on the targets set. The target set is small and a certain market, its not set to take on the world and replace Android and iPhone.

It would be so funny if it suddenly exploded and was the new tamagotchi

dave164 said,
It would be so funny if it suddenly exploded and was the new tamagotchi

You need to feed this phone, give it attention, play games otherwise it will disconnect and die?

evo_spook said,
Thats it. The Pink can only fail depending on the targets set. The target set is small and a certain market, its not set to take on the world and replace Android and iPhone.

Exactly. I expect these phones will go on sale for pretty low prices from verizon. They'll be used to such teens into the idea of smartphones by giving them enough features so then verizon can upsell them a full smartphone later on.

These types of devices have always been around, it's nothing new and they're not going to go away just because smartphones are growing in popularity. Not everyone is going to buy a $300+ smartphone for their teenage kids.

GP007 said,

Exactly. I expect these phones will go on sale for pretty low prices from verizon. They'll be used to such teens into the idea of smartphones by giving them enough features so then verizon can upsell them a full smartphone later on.

These types of devices have always been around, it's nothing new and they're not going to go away just because smartphones are growing in popularity. Not everyone is going to buy a $300+ smartphone for their teenage kids.

The prepaid market in a nutshell.

There are no 3G phones (and almost no smartphones or multimedia phones) in that market today, despite the presence of the RAZR-derived Motorola W75x; the bargain smartphone segment is pretty much dominated by (surprisingly) RIM (Curve/Tour and Storm 1/Classic Storm, and that's just VZW); Android's closest approach is the Droid ERIS; however, the three handsets from RIM undercut it on price and blow it away on features; however, a contract (in addition to a data plan) is a must for any of them. Pink could be a game-changer aimed at the prepaid market, which is dull and lifeless.

PGHammer said,

There are no 3G phones (and almost no smartphones or multimedia phones) in that market today, despite the presence of the RAZR-derived Motorola W75x; the bargain smartphone segment is pretty much dominated by (surprisingly) RIM (Curve/Tour and Storm 1/Classic Storm, and that's just VZW); Android's closest approach is the Droid ERIS; however, the three handsets from RIM undercut it on price and blow it away on features; however, a contract (in addition to a data plan) is a must for any of them. Pink could be a game-changer aimed at the prepaid market, which is dull and lifeless.

My Samsung Highlight can do 3G and it's a feature phone as well.

Unlike Windows Phone, which is aimed at iPhone and Android (and somewhat even at BlackBerry, albeit for the non-enterprise market), Pink may be aimed at the younger users (if not the prepaid-phone market, which primarily consists of such users), injecting some much-needed life into that space (the prepaid space, that is; VZW is the largest reseller of prepaid phones and plans).

After all, the biggest complaint about the prepaid-phone/plan space is that the phones are yesterday's news (BO-ring); the only good thing about them is the lack of contract.

CarlJ said,
Why watermark an image that you didn't even get the scoop on? I've seen that image on Gizmodo ages ago.
Apologies for that, when I uploaded it yesterday I accidentally chose the "watermark" option we have in our CMS and hence the logo was overlayed. I've updated the image now to remove the logo and provide a better overall montage image of what we have seen of the device so far. As for the Gizmodo article, I actually only found that now after you mentioned it. It seems we had one of the same original sources.

njlouch said,
I fear it may be the Microsoft Bob phone equivalent...

I don't know if anything will ever come to the level that Microsoft Bob was on XD

sundayx said,
I think the name "Pink" is kind of a fail bait no?

Well i for one think its cute I have a touch pro 2 and would gladly switch to this...

sundayx said,
I think the name "Pink" is kind of a fail bait no?

That is the code name though, I doubt verizon will call them Pink phones.

potat4o said,
Based on Microsoft's track record of attempting to be social/hip/in-the-know, it will fail. I would like to see more of the phone though ... come Monday.

The Xbox is a prime example of your statement, the Xbox isn't popular at all and nobody thinks it's cool....right?

I don't think it'll fail at all. Being a feature phone used to draw in young first time phone buyers that don't have the money or the overall need to buy a full smartphone, it'll get pushed hard by verizon and it will sell. It might not get the huge press the iPhone does, but so what?

For those on a budget, and if the deals are good, if the UI looks good, and the phones work like they should, it'll sell.

GP007 said,
I don't think it'll fail at all. Being a feature phone used to draw in young first time phone buyers that don't have the money or the overall need to buy a full smartphone, it'll get pushed hard by verizon and it will sell. It might not get the huge press the iPhone does, but so what?

For those on a budget, and if the deals are good, if the UI looks good, and the phones work like they should, it'll sell.

+1

GP007 said,
I don't think it'll fail at all. Being a feature phone used to draw in young first time phone buyers that don't have the money or the overall need to buy a full smartphone, it'll get pushed hard by verizon and it will sell. It might not get the huge press the iPhone does, but so what?

For those on a budget, and if the deals are good, if the UI looks good, and the phones work like they should, it'll sell.

Most importantly, it offers an alternative for parents who want to give their kids a phone, but don't want to be locked into AT&T/iPhone.

Priced reasonably, I can't see why this won't sell a few. Today's tech bloggers/journalist/pundits/analysts see only success if they meet iStuff demand. We really have to get out of that mentality.

GP007 said,
I don't think it'll fail at all. Being a feature phone used to draw in young first time phone buyers that don't have the money or the overall need to buy a full smartphone, it'll get pushed hard by verizon and it will sell. It might not get the huge press the iPhone does, but so what?

For those on a budget, and if the deals are good, if the UI looks good, and the phones work like they should, it'll sell.

I agree, but if the rumor proves true that it can't run software designed for Windows Phone 7 (Which I don't understand at all), that could prove difficult to get users to transition when their needs grow... Ideally I think that's the best arrangement for this OS. Now, with Windows Phone 7 software being based on Silverlight, I don't see why Microsoft wouldn't be able to do this, and with the importance, I don't see why Microsoft wouldn't have made that a priority...