Report: Microsoft’s Pink project is an un-fixable disaster, “near death”

Mon, Oct 12, 2009


No one is quite sure what exactly Project Pink is, but broadly speaking, we do know that it refers in someway to a Microsoft project that was created with the intention of battling the iPhone.  But now, a few inside sources are apparently breaking ranks and spilling the beans on the latest Microsoft project gone awry.  As a refresher, Microsoft purchased a company called Danger in 2008 (the makers of the T-mobile sidekick) and that group was subsequently re-formed under the Project Pink moniker and was a completely separate development project from Windows Mobile.  Anyways, onto the “juice”.

Mobile Crunch, citing an extremely reliable source with “exhaustive” knowledge of the Pink project writes:

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.”

And that was just the beginning.

Last Friday, AppleInsider relayed some juicy info about Microsoft’s Pink Project obtained from its own inside source.

“There were other operators involved in the project because (and this hasn’t leaked yet), in their infinite wisdom, the Pink planners decided to try to build both UMTS and CDMA phones in both form factors, for a grand total of four different SKUs.

“None of the other smartphone platform builders were foolish enough to try to build more than one phone at a time, and whoever made this decision didn’t take into account the added complexity involved in coding to support two different radio modules (from two different vendors, no less!) for two completely different radio technologies, not to mention validating and testing the RF performance of four different antennas (since each form factor and radio technology requires its own antenna design).

“You could have picked anyone at random from Danger and asked them if this would be a good idea and gotten the correct answer (hell no!), but by the time we were brought in, these decisions had already been made. At some point the UMTS project was placed on the back burner, and for all I know it may have already been cancelled, but the damage to the project has been done.

… “So now that the whole thing has blown up in their faces, I’m not sure what will happen next. Fortunately it doesn’t affect me since I’ve already left, but I feel sad that so many Danger folks who I respect deeply are still working there, and none of them were responsible for making these catastrophic decisions. The most likely possibility is that anything worth salvaging from Pink will get folded into the larger WiMo 7 project, where it should have been located in the first place.

“Instead, Pink was a skunkworks project kept completely secret from both the WinMo and Zune teams, which led to much frustration and duplication of effort. Of course WinMo is so screwed that this will likely lead to still more Danger folks quitting in disgust. Another possibility would be another massive layoff and shutting down the Danger offices, but with the economic crunch, I doubt that Microsoft would choose to take the hit of handing out severance packages to all the affected engineers, and breaking the lease on the buildings.

“The smartest course of action (and therefore the one that Microsoft is least likely to take!) would be for them to recognize the value of the original Danger platform that they acquired, and to rebuild the Hiptop/Sidekick into a force to compete with Android (which is, after all, “Sidekick 2.0” in many respects). This won’t happen for three reasons: 1) Microsoft’s irrational hatred of Java, 2) Microsoft’s irrational love of Windows in all of its horrible flavors, and 3) all the Danger folks who loved the Sidekick platform have left or likely will leave soon, and Microsoft has no in-house expertise in Java or the Danger platform.

You can check out the full scoop from AppleInsider over here.


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