RealTime IT News

Is 'Pink' Key to Microsoft's Mobile Strategy?

Stories that Microsoft is planning to release smartphones under its own brand name have been burning up many leading rumors sites for months.

The purported phones -- codenamed 'Pink,' rumors say -- aim to give Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) a leg up in the Windows Mobile space where the company has been having a hard slog for nearly a decade.

Rumors have also swirled that the software giant, which has a substantial hardware business that includes branded keyboards, mice, the Xbox, and the Zune MP3 players -- will market a tablet PC of some sort, also under its own brand name.

Reflecting on the rumors, several mobile analysts said that, if true, both could be bad moves on Microsoft's part.

The rumors surfaced again this week in the All About Microsoft blog. The company plans to show two Pink phones early next year, according to sources who contacted the blog.

The unconfirmed reports could not be independently verified.

However, if the rumors and speculation are correct, the two phones will be based on the core of the as-yet-unannounced Windows Mobile 7, and would have slide out keyboards and multi-touch screens. The rumored tablet device may also feature a multi-touch screen.

Microsoft refused to comment regarding Windows Mobile 7 and, in fact, plans to launch the first round of Windows Mobile 6.5 smartphones in just two weeks.

The company also said it had no comment on Pink.

"We haven’t announced anything by that name [Pink]. We can only comment on initiatives that are public and in market," a Microsoft spokesperson told InternetNews.com.

The same is true for the rumored tablet PC.

"In regards to the tablet computer, Microsoft makes it a practice to not comment on rumors or speculation," the spokesperson added.

Meanwhile, Microsoft has had versions of desktop Windows running tablet PCs since 2001, making analysts wonder why it would bother having one under its own branding, other than the market's failure to pick up on the tablets that have been offered to date.

Although several mobile analysts have heard, or read about, the same unconfirmed reports, they not only take them with a dose of salt, but they also said Microsoft would be making a mistake to have its own branded hardware.

"My take is that, if Microsoft goes ahead and builds their own phones, they're cutting their own throats with their OEMs," Jack Gold, principal analyst at J. Gold Associates, told InternetNews.com.

The same goes for a Microsoft-branded tablet PC.

"Again, what are you trying to accomplish?" Gold added.

Philippe Winthrop, director of business mobility solutions at Strategy Analytics, took InternetNews.com a similar view.

"That's a tightrope because there are serious risks like ticking off their OEM partners," Winthrop said. At the same time, he added, Microsoft is already having to confront recent defections from its Windows Mobile partner ranks.

For instance, Motorola just rolled out the first in a new generation of Android-based phones.

If you're Microsoft, what do you do?

"Microsoft has tried a lot of things in the mobile market," Matt Rosoff, research vice president for consumer products and services at Directions on Microsoft, told InternetNews.com.

"I think they're going to take the classic Microsoft approach and throw a lot of stuff out there to see what's successful," Rosoff added.