Microsoft's Pink phone to come in clamshell, candy bar designs

Focus is to appeal to the young social-networking crowd

Microsoft Corp.'s new cell phone, code-named Pink, will come in several lively colors and two form factors: A clamshell that twists open and a candy-bar shape. Both models are fashioned to please the young social-networking crowd that Microsoft has so sorely failed to attract in recent years.

Other details have emerged from people who have been briefed on Pink in recent days, in advance of a Microsoft unveiling set for Monday in San Francisco.

The device will run some elements of the announced Windows Phone 7 Series operating system, but not the entire OS. It will also include elements of the Sidekick, a device designed by Danger Inc., which was later acquired by Microsoft, and the Zune media player, said a person familiar with the product who asked not to be named. The Pink device will not use any of the Windows Mobile operating system, which Microsoft is phasing out, that person said.

Also today, the Wall Street Journal (subscription required) quoted an unnamed source who said the device will by manufactured by Sharp Corp. and will run on the Verizon Wireless network. Neither of those companies could be reached for comment.

The Sharp brand name will not appear on the device, which is to be co-branded with Microsoft and Verizon, one source said. Microsoft wants to appear to be more involved in distributing its own hardware as well as software, similar to the way that Apple Inc. controls both hardware and software in its sales of the iPhone, the source said.

Microsoft and Verizon have not revealed the price, but both Pink models are expected to be in the $100 to $150 range, that source said.

Pink will emphasize social networking functions rather than heavy-duty browsing as some smartphones do, meaning it will provide tools to reach contacts through Facebook and other social networks, as well as GPS and location-based applications to help find friends, one source said.

"It's for the social networking crowd, including men and women in their twenties," the source added.

That would be a market that Microsoft realizes it has missed in recent years. Even BlackBerry maker Research In Motion Ltd. has embraced a younger consumer crowd to move beyond its base of business professionals.

The Pink code name and even the invitation to the media and analyst event focus heavily on socially active young people, especially women. The invitation offers little information, saying only "It's time to share" and featuring photos of several smiling young women, with a few details on the time and place. Microsoft has apparently recognized that it's important to tie marketing aimed at a certain demographic group to its technology, several sources said.

Jack Gold, an analyst at J.Gold Associates, said this week that he didn't have first-hand details about the Pink device, but he noted that whatever Microsoft produces must appeal to a young crowd in order for the company to compete.

"Microsoft has a significant problem with the younger generation," he said. "Whatever they announce, they have to make it pretty sexy, or why would anybody care?"

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen, or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His e-mail address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

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