updated 10:45 am EDT, Fri October 9, 2009
MS Pink and Danger team at risk
Microsoft's Pink phone project may be on the verge of falling apart even before its first product ships, according to a controversial set of leaks supposedly confirmed today. Backing a scoop from earlier in the week, a source for AppleInsider says Microsoft has poorly managed the project and squandered the acquisition of Sidekick creator Danger from 2008. Rather than implement Danger's advice, the larger company has watched the majority of the team either fired or leave in frustration as the majority of their advice is ignored.
The anger allegedly stems from both Microsoft's insistence on keeping Pink a project separate from either the Windows Mobile or Zune teams as well as Premium Mobile Experiences head (and former MacBU leader) Roz Ho's particular policy choices. By isolating the team as a secret "skunk works" project, Microsoft prevented any design lessons learned from helping other parts of the company and oftentimes unnecessarily repeated work. Ho in particular is said to have also ignored advice from Danger staffers whose experience with the Sidekick would likely have helped the project.
Among the errors, Microsoft is said to have been too ambitious and tried to develop both CDMA/EVDO and UMTS/HSPA of the Pure and Turtle designs alike, not realizing that each needed different chipsets and antennas that would dictate fundamental changes to each; it had also tried to simply ask the key hardware partner, Sharp, to build based on the renderings rather than realistic goals, and an outside firm had been contracted to design the interface elements. The combination of these mistakes may have left the project as much as two years behind schedule and created especially severe problems for the Turtle, whose vertical QWERTY slider design would both have a too-small touchscreen that's easily covered as well as very low battery life.
The very existence of the project is also thought to have caused (or soon to be causing) problems with many partners of both Microsoft and Danger. Just by developing a self-branded phone, Microsoft is expected to mirror what occurred with the original Zune and alienate remaining Windows Mobile hardware partners, such as HTC. It may drive these supporters further towards Android, Symbian and other competing platforms, the newer source said.
Verizon is also understood to be the preferred carrier for the Pink project and would hurt Danger's hopes of a continued positive relationship with T-Mobile, the usual home of the Sidekick. Microsoft may have misled T-Mobile over the amount of continued support for the Sidekick and has purportedly killed it off with just a skeleton team to keep it alive; a recent multi-day outage of Sidekick services may have confirmed the understaffing.
Even Verizon, however, may be irritated as it feels too dependent on Windows Mobile and had been counting on Pink to improve Microsoft's reputation. A failure if true would likely push the company further towards its Android phones, BlackBerries, and even Palm's webOS. In its current situation, Verizon purportedly faces as much as a 25 percent return rate on Windows Mobile phones owed partly to distaste for the OS.
Microsoft has neither confirmed nor denied any of the details, which would leave it with only its existing Windows Mobile 7 development work to rescue its smartphone platforms and with a greatly increased sense of distrust at those companies still making Windows Mobile phones. The future OS is unofficially expected sometime in the second half of 2010 and would finally add multi-touch as well as a truly finger-friendly interface to the platform. Without Pink, its only likely integration will come from the Zune interface elements the company has promised for Windows Mobile at an unspecified point in the future.
Pink is commonly accepted as a reaction to the success of the iPhone and an attempt to develop a similarly integrated hardware and software platform, not unlike the Zune's existence as an alternative to the iPod.