Microsoft Set To Unveil 'Pink' Mobile Devices

Microsoft sent an invitation to members of the media this week which carries the tag line "It's time to share" and photos of preoccupied looking teenagers. Pink devices are believed to be heavily infused with social networking technologies, and they're aimed at teenagers and young consumers, a demographic which believes that not being connected to the Web and to friends at all times is an unspeakably unpleasant proposition.

Microsoft plans to launch the devices initially in the U.S. through a partnership with Verizon Wireless, and then plans to expand sales to other countries, according to a Monday report in The Wall Street Journal.

With Windows Phone 7, Microsoft is heading in a decidedly more consumer-oriented direction than it did with Windows Mobile, but Pink isn't built on the platform. Rather, with a custom built software and service stack, Pink is Microsoft's chance to show it can appeal to younger customers and give Apple some semblance of a challenge in this segment.

"Go to any college or university and you'll see tons of Macs and iPhones. Microsoft correctly recognizes that they can't cede that space because there is mind share there that is fundamentally important," said Dave Sobel, CEO of Evolve Technologies, a Fairfax, Va.-based solution provider.

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With Windows Mobile, Microsoft was accused of being too one dimensional. Sobel sees Pink as an example of the company's new mobile direction, which involves going after different demographics with different devices. This is something Apple does with the iPod Touch, a product that appeals to an entirely different type of customer than the iPhone, according to Sobel.

"One size doesn't fit all when it comes to mobile devices. Microsoft tried to make Windows Mobile one thing to everybody, and that didn't work very well," Sobel said.

Figuring out where Pink fits into Microsoft's mobile plans has always been a challenge. Microsoft spent $500 million for Danger and funneled much of the talent into its Premium Mobile Experiences (PMX) team, part of the Mobile Communications Business (MCB) of the Entertainment and Devices Division. PMX is believed to be driving Pink, but the project has run into numerous problems and delays, and many Danger staffers have either been laid off or have left for greener pastures.

There have been rumors that Pink might be scrapped entirely, but by bringing devices to market, Microsoft will get a chance to silence critics and show that the Danger deal wasn't an expensive mistake.

Whether Microsoft is willing to spend what's necessary to establish itself in the fickle world of teenage mobile users remains to be seen. But even if Pink fails, no one will be able to say that Microsoft isn't willing to try new tactics for reversing its mobile fortunes.