Microsoft is apparently circulating invitations to a mysterious event in San Francisco next week. Engadget has an image of the invite itself, which came in a tube-like contraption and features the vaguely ominous tagline, "It's Time to Share."

Paul Thurrott, over at Windows Phone Secrets, predicts, "This is the Pink phone announcement. I have not been invited to this specifically, but they are gearing up to launch this new side business, basically a texting/social networking phone platform for teenagers ('Pink'). It is not Courier."

For those of you tuning in midway through the program, Project Pink is the Loch Ness Monster of vaporware: a long-rumored branded-smartphone project, sighted occasionally in leaked documents but never officially confirmed by Microsoft. In September 2009, the rumors focused on the possibility of two smartphones, code-named Turtle and Pure, which were being developed in conjunction with Danger, a company that Microsoft acquired in 2009 and integrated into its PMX (Premium Mobile Experiences) team, a division of its MCB (Mobile Communications Business).

If the April 12 announcement in San Francisco does turn out to be Pink-related, it would follow the groundswell of scuttlebutt from early March, including a Reuters report that stated Verizon and Microsoft would team up to launch a pair of smartphones in either late spring or early summer that were geared toward social networking. At the same time, Gizmodo posted images of what it said was the Pure phone.

In a possible Pink phone's favor is the fact that, in October 2009, a hardware issue on servers being run by Danger resulted in the personal data being wiped from nearly 800,000 Sidekick users' phones. Following that, T-Mobile temporarily pulled the Sidekick, even as Microsoft engineers scrambled to restore user data. I remember at the time that T-Mobile's message boards filled with irate customers threatening to jump ship; if Project Pink rolls out, appealing to the same demographic as the Sidekick, then it could claim a percentage of that market.

In any case, the fact that these phones are being apparently targeted to teenagers makes it a sideshow, in many ways, to the larger Microsoft initiative of Windows Phone 7, due for release on a variety of devices later in 2010. Note that I wrote "Windows Phone 7": Microsoft has decided to drop the "Series" from the upcoming smartphone OS' name and thus make it less clunky. Which may or may not help its fortunes, but it certainly is making my fingers marginally less exhausted.

Source : Microsoft Watch


Microsoft rolled out a demo of Project Natal at this year's D8 conference in California. The device, which sits atop an Xbox 360, allows for game control via the user's own movements: Throw a punch, and the move is mirrored by your onscreen avatar. Microsoft plans on unveiling compatible games for Natal at the upcoming E3 trade show in June, along with a brand-new name for the device that I won't keep misreading as "Navel."

Natal, ready to mock your lack of coordination skills. Image courtesy of Engadget.

Will Natal be a success? It's a little too soon to tell. Nintendo's Wii managed to capture the hearts of casual gamers with its innovative controllers, which respond to users' arm motions. But hardware is only as exciting as the software that comes with it, and it remains to be seen what sorts of games Microsoft and its partners have up their collective sleeve. In any case, Microsoft plans to launch Natal in time for the holiday shopping season, although it's declined so far to name a price point; competition will come not only from the Wii, but also from the Move, a competing hands-free controller from Sony due on store shelves sometime in the latter half of 2010.

What's interesting about Natal, to me at least, is the possibility that its no-hands interface could eventually be integrated outside the game context. Sure, everyone and their mother seem obsessed with touch screens at the moment, whether on the Apple iPad or the new smartphones that enter the market at roughly a rate of two per day. At some point, though, the inevitable next stage in user interfaces needs to be considered.

Along those lines, I bet--and this is purest, airiest conjecture--that the technology behind Natal could eventually find its way into more productivity-centric uses (think of the motion-sensitive interface from the movie "Minority Report," as an example). Such a reality would be years away, of course, but a hands-free controller could have at least one tangible benefit: You wouldn't have to worry anymore about dirtying a screen or keyboard with less-than-clean fingertips.

Source : Microsoft watch