Microsoft Pink: 'Just a Sidekick' or more?

Summary:Ever since Gizmodo published photos of two alleged Microsoft Pink phones (codenamed "Turtle" and "Pure,") I've heard repeated refrains of "That's it?" Really? A weak Palm-Pre knock-off and a generic sliding-keyboard design?

Ever since Gizmodo published photos of two alleged Microsoft Pink phones (codenamed "Turtle" and "Pure,") I've heard repeated refrains of "That's it?" Really? A weak Palm-Pre knock-off and a generic sliding-keyboard design?

One tipster of mine said Microsoft's intention with Pink is not to be cool and flashy. (Well, they succeeded if these photos are real. A Microsoft phone with the Zune HD touch interface would be a million times cooler.) Instead, the source said, Microsoft is attempting to walk the fine line between delivering cool, co-branded Microsoft-Sharp phones and delivering something that would completely alienate Microsoft's phone OEM partners.

"Pink is a unique software stack and unique designs," said the source, who requested anonymity. But,  at the same time -- even though Microsoft and the Danger team the company acquired would hate this characterization -- they also are really glorified Sidekicks, the source added. (Looks like this source or others with a similar story are busy spreading that word, based on a new post by News.com's Ina Fried.)

What's more interesting about Pink than the actual hardware is the software plus services stack. This source says that is what is codenamed "Purple." (I'd heard previously Purple was the codename for the Pink user interface, so this doesn't seem like too far a stretch.)

What's in the Purple stack? Here's where things get even hazier. Is Windows Mobile 7 the base upon which Pink phones will be built? From what I heard, that was Microsoft's original plan. It's worth repeating that the OS for Windows Mobile phones, to date, has been Embedded CE at the core, with a lot of customization and layering of a Windows Mobile interface/elements on top. Will Pink phones follow in that mode or break from it? I have no idea.

I asked another source of mine this week whether Windows Mobile 7 will be the foundation upon which Pink phones are built. His reply was odd: He said that being a platform was not a top-priority for Windows Mobile 7. (Make of that what you will....)

What I am still hearing is that the Pink phones will feature a lot of the same kinds of premium services that future Windows Mobile phones will -- everything from access to a common Windows Marketplace app store, to the Zune subscription/playback music service, to a Zune-branded video service.

Microsoft officials aren't commenting on Pink or on the recent Gizmodo images... So for now, there's no way to know how much of this is real or when any of it will materialize.

Update: One reader sent me a point worth mentioning. Danger, the company Microsoft acquired in 2008 and which is believed to be the folks behind Pink at Microsoft, built a platform that was Java-based.  From Danger's Web site:" Danger has developed its own Danger Operating System that is compatible with Sun's J2ME standard (CLDC 1.1 and MIDP 2.0)." If the Pink phones are running this platform, that proves they are Sidekicks at heart, the reader said.

Topics: Mobile OS, Hardware, Microsoft, Mobility, Operating Systems, Software, Telcos, Wi-Fi, Windows

About

Mary Jo Foley has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications, including ZDNet, eWeek and Baseline. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008). She also is the cohost of the "Windows Weekly" podcast on the TWiT network. Got a tip? Se... Full Bio

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