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Zune Update May Tip Microsoft's Mobile Hand

An eagle-eyed Microsoft enthusiast has noticed some new driver code in a Zune update released this week that could portend the arrival of the long rumored 'Pink' smartphone.

As noted by Microsoft blogger Long Zheng, the latest Zune update contains code for three new hardware identifiers and three new Product IDs (PID) that are distinct from the existing ones for Zune devices. According to Zheng, these could represent the addition of support for three actual hardware SKUs.

"What might appear as just a regular software update is actually hiding a very big secret. The [elusive] 'Zune Phone' is pretty much confirmed," Zheng wrote in the blog post.

Although this could be a sign of a coming integration of Zune software into Windows Mobile 7, Zheng noted that the driver references hardware IDs that are locked to Microsoft, and as such, can't be masked without violating USB body regulations.

Given the thick blanket of secrecy around Microsoft's Windows Mobile 7 plans, this is definitely plausible. Microsoft recently started hinting that it'll share some sort of mobile-related news at the upcoming Mobile World Congress and MIX10 conferences. But company executives haven't uttered the words 'Windows Mobile 7' in months, instead preferring to maintain an Apple-esque silence when confronted with questions about Microsoft's foundering mobile strategy.

Does Zheng's discovery portend the arrival of the long rumored Pink? That project, in which Microsoft has reportedly been working with Sharp -- maker of the Sidekick -- to develop a smartphone with music, gaming, and social networking features, was rumored to be on the rocks last October. But Pink is actually still alive, a source familiar with the project told Channelweb.com this week.

According to the source, who originally briefed Channelweb.com on the matter last May, Pink has suffered from poor management and the repeated delays that have dogged Windows Mobile 7. Microsoft is still forging ahead with Pink, but Microsoft's Premium Mobile Experiences (PMX) division, which is leading development of Pink, has cut many of its most compelling features, the source said.

Microsoft has something up its sleeve, but given the many areas where its mobile strategy needs fixing, it's anyone's guess if the forthcoming revelations will help make up for the ground it has lost in the hard charging mobile market. For that to happen, it'll have to be something big.

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