Project Pink and the rumored remake of a Microsoft Tablet are back on the rumor treadmill this weekend.
It's been quiet out there lately on both fronts. Here's a recap -- plus a couple of small updates -- that I've heard recently about these two skunk-works efforts. And just so it's clear: Microsoft isn't corroborating or even commenting on Pink or the new Tablet. This info is purely from sources.
Pink: Yes, it's a Microsoft-branded (but not Microsoft-manufactured) phone. Yes, it also will feature premium mobile services (like the Zune video store and music subscription/purchasing). I wouldn't be surprised if Pink looked like -- or at least was targeted at the same demographic as -- the Sidekick, given the Danger folks have been at the core of Pink's development team since Microsoft acquired Danger in 2008.
Last I heard, Pink was being built on top of the Windows Mobile 7 core, which is in development, but now not expected to be available on phones until late 2010. Does that mean it's impossible that the Consumer Electronics Show in January 2010 will be the Pink launch pad,as one Mac site reported this weekend? I'd say it's still possible that Microsoft could show off Pink (privately or publicly) at CES. After all, Microsoft already chose an ad agency to handle the Pink campaign. It'd make sense for Microsoft to start trying to build buzz for Pink earlier than it actually will ship.
Pink (or whatever it is codenamed these days) definitely still seems to be an active project. Stephen Chapman over at UX Evangelist -- who is quite skilled at combing through on-line job sites and resumes -- recently sent me this mention of Pink on LinkedIn:
Peo Orvendal Senior Dev Lead Microsoft July 2008 – Present (1 year 3 months)
Update: 9to5 Mac has posted a link to a drawing of what it says is one of the two Pink phones due to be launched at CES 2010. This allegedly, is the "Turtle" Pink phone. There's another that is codenamed "Pure," 9to5 says. I never heard there were supposed to be two Pink phones. But then again, who knows; Microsoft plans are always in flux.
Microsoft Tablet (Take 2): Like TechFlash's Todd Bishop, I received a tip earlier this year that Microsoft was going to make another run at the Tablet. Chief Experience Officer J Allard, who has been been noticeably absent from public appearances over the past few months, is supposedly leading the charge.
More recently, I heard that at least one exec from Microsoft's Surface team is part of the Tablet effort, too. Microsoft officials have hinted before that they're set on building a smaller Surface. At one point, that project was going by the codename "Oahu." But the new Tablet effort is allegedly part of something that is known as "Alchemy Ventures," according to the couple of tips I've gotten on it to date. I wouldn't be surprised if Microsoft is waiting for Apple to show its Tablet hand before trotting out its revamped Tablet.
No word on whether Microsoft will field a Microsoft-branded Surface/Tablet combo or rely on one or more hardware partners to produce multiple designs. But this job description for a Senior Program Manager at Microsoft in the Entertainment and Devices Division surely could be for the secret Tablet-remake:
Division: Entertainment & Devices Division Excited by Xbox 360? Fascinated by the technology that powers the Surface? Ever wonder how your Zune HD got built? Bring your talent and passion for building great products to the Manufacturing Test Engineering team! Our team is where all these cool products and more come together. We are a small, high-energy engineering team that builds all the systems that make sure these great products work perfectly as they leave our factories. We literally design and build all the test system used to check our products from the beginning to the end of the manufacturing line and are literally responsible for billions of dollars of products being delivered at the highest quality to our customers.
As a Senior Program Manager, you will own a broad set of feature areas and products, working with our mechanical, electrical, firmware, software, design verification and reliability engineers along with Manufacturing to bring a product from concept into mass production. You will also develop partnerships with internal and external organizations to ensure that our products deliver a superior customer experience.
A couple of points to remember in all of this: Microsoft is a software and services company. Execs have made it clear they plan to get out of the MP3 player business after "at least one more" Zune HD device. Microsoft is more interested in making money off subscriptions. That's why Zune is morphing into a set services are going to move to mobile phones, including Pink.
Point two: Microsoft's plan in the mobile device space is to partner more closely with fewer vendors. That's what the "chassis" model is all about. Microsoft creates a very detailed chassis spec and then allows partners to bid on making devices that comply with the spec.
Palm's publicly confirmed move to get out of the Windows Mobile business and put all its eggs in the WebOS one (after marketing its line of Windows-Mobile-based Treos for a few more quarters) surely wasn't something the beleagured Windows Mobile team wanted/needed to hear this week. But as of late, Microsoft is cozying up lately to a smaller cast of characters, including HTC, LG, Samsung, Sony Ericsson, and a few others.
What are your expectations? Will Microsoft field a Pink phone in early 2010? Might a Surface-like Tablet PC be close behind?