To say we were unimpressed with the first leaked shots to come out of Microsofts “Project Pink” would be a bit of an understatement. This was Microsoft’s first in-house foray into the mobile hardware space, and we’d been hearing tales of it for years; yet in the end, what we were seeing was bad enough that we equated the two leaked devices to “a midgie Pre and a Touch Pro crossed with a jellybean”.
And now, it all begins to make sense. We were recently contacted by a source with a seemingly exhaustive knowledge of Microsoft’s Project Pink, and what they’ve shared with us doesn’t sound good. If what they’ve shared is true, it seems that the project as a whole began — and will likely end — in vain.
For the sake of proper disclosure, a bit on our source: they have maintained absolute anonymity. While they were careful to hold back any potentially identifiable details, they exhibited a very well defined knowledge of the project. We have since verified enough of the details with independent sources to believe what they’ve shared to be true.
Here’s what we have been told:
- Much of the Danger/Sidekick team has left or been fired since the 2008 acquisition. According to our source, there is “no braintrust that understands how to build a product” left on the Pink team.
- If a product does ship, it will lack the third party application support/store that rumors have indicated it would have – the remaining team members simply don’t know how to get it done.
- Amongst remaining employees, dissent is high. Much of the team uses iPhones around the office, or their old Sidekick handsets. Employees “hate the product” internally, many feeling that the division exists only to “challenge [the Windows Mobile 7 team] and upset them into competing.” Our source outright indicated that they felt the product was never intended to ship.
- At this point, the project is roughly 2 years behind schedule. In order to continue moving forward toward some undefined launch date, basics such as a calendar application have already ended up on the cutting room floor.
- On the “Turtle” (the smaller of the two devices): The touchscreen is unusable, as there are too many elements on screen at one time. “Your finger covers 50% of the screen”, says the source. The unit was designed “on the fly”, with a design drawn up and then sent to Sharp for verbatim manufacturing. Our source says this backwards design process has lead to a “near disastrous” battery life. “Designers forced Sharp to build to sketch and not ‘worry about that stuff.’”
- The UI concept work was originally done by an outside party, and Microsoft engineers have been “struggling to replicate it ever since”.
Signing off, our source says that the project “is near death and probably will be canceled.”
If what our source has shared with us is true, this is all rather depressing. Not because it means the Pink phones might not ship, mind you — as mentioned, we weren’t all that keen on the project to begin with — but because of what it means for the Sidekick line of phones. Danger took a massive hit when it lost some of it’s greatest minds to competing companies (CEO Andy Rubin took off to lead Android at Google, while Lead UI designer Matias Duarte is a big player behind Palm’s WebOS), but we’d always kept a special place in our hearts for the ol’ Kick. Our hopes of one more great Sidekick — possibly one rockin’ Android, or any other smartphone OS — were dashed when Microsoft snatched up the company last year. Now, it seems impossible.