Microsoft's Pink: What's the latest?

Summary:Microsoft's mysterious "Project Pink" is back in the news, with word from Ad Week that the Redmondians are obtaining bids from various ad agencies for a Pink campaign. So we're back to square one: What, exactly, is Pink?

Microsoft's mysterious "Project Pink" is back in the news, with word from Ad Week that the Redmondians are obtaining bids from various ad agencies for a Pink campaign.

Exactly what Pink is and isn't has been tough to pin down -- especially given that Microsoft officials haven't even been willing to acknowledge the codename.

When I first heard about Pink (and the equally mysterious Purple), tipsters said Pink was codename for a Zune Phone.

Over the next several months, more Pink tipsters suggested that Pink wasn't actually a device, but instead was more of a set of consumer-focused, premium mobile services. The Danger folks Microsoft acquired a year ago were said by various sources to be working on these Pink services. And the Zune entertainment services (music and video purchase, playback, sharing, etc.) also seemed to fall under the Pink umbrella, from what my sources were telling me.

But over the past few months, I began hearing again that Pink was not just services, but also hardware. Remember all that confusion over whether or not Microsoft was going to make its own phone -- and most likely some kind of Zune phone? My tipsters said that Microsoft was going to make the phone chassis but not the whole phone; instead, the company was seeking a consumer-electronics partner to actually build one or more phones, with Microsoft involved every step of the way.

Here we are, in mid-April 2009. Word is Microsoft is planning to close bidding on the planned Pink ad campaign this summer. But what, exactly, will the advertiser(s) be advertising?

Based on the latest from my sources, here are my guesses:

  • Pink is both a phone and the set of mobile services that will be connected with that phone. Microsoft will provide the chassis but it won't build the entire phone itself. (Will Microsoft sell the resulting phone under the Microsoft brand, the way it sells the Xbox? I'm not sure.)
  • The Pink services will include premium services from the Danger crew working at Microsoft, as well as services from the Zune team. I'd bet Pink users might also get access to some of the "Sky" services Microsoft is readying, like SkyMarket (Windows Marketplace for Mobile) and Skybox (My Phone).
  • Pink is built on top of the Windows Mobile 7 core engine. But it won't look like other Windows Mobile 7 phones coming from various third-party phone makers.
  • Purple is the "user experience" for Pink (and what will make it look and feel different from other Windows Mobile 7 devices).

I still haven't heard a launch target for Pink -- though I have heard that Windows Mobile 7 devices could start appearing in the market in Q2 2010.

Anyone else hearing other Pink details/rumors?  If Pink is, as originally rumored, a "Zune phone," what features/specs would make you interested in buying one?

Topics: Mobility, Microsoft, Telcos


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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