Microsoft to Unveil New Mobile-Phones Line
Microsoft Corp. plans to introduce a new line of mobile phones Monday with social-networking capabilities aimed at young consumers, part of the technology giant’s effort to turn around its struggling mobile-phone strategy, people familiar with the matter said.
The new devices, based on a Microsoft development project code-named “Pink,” will be available later this month in the U.S. through a partnership with Verizon Wireless, the carrier owned by Verizon Communications Inc. and Vodafone Group PLC., one of these people said.
Microsoft’s new phones are the latest sign the software maker is getting more deeply involved in the hardware side of the mobile-phone business in a bid to create products that provide smoother experiences for consumers.
Microsoft designed the software, online services and hardware for the Pink mobile phones, while Sharp Corp. of Japan is manufacturing the devices, people familiar with the project said.
The approach is modeled on one used to develop a device called the Sidekick that was sold by wireless provider T-Mobile and designed by Danger Inc., a start-up Microsoft acquired in 2008, and which later worked on the Pink devices.
Still, Microsoft has stopped short of getting as directly involved in mobile phones as Google Inc. did earlier this year in introducing a smartphone of its own design called Nexus One, which is manufactured by HTC Corp. and sold directly to consumers through Google’s Web site.
Instead, Microsoft, which is based in Redmond, Wash., decided to work more closely with wireless carriers to bring the Pink phones to consumers.
On Monday, Microsoft invited the media to an event April 12 in San Francisco with the slogan, “It’s time to share.” Though the company declined to disclose the event’s purpose, people familiar with the matter said it would be to introduce the new phones. Spokeswomen for Microsoft and Verizon Wireless declined to comment.
Microsoft needs a boost for its mobile business, which has suffered in recent years as its operating system for smartphones was eclipsed by technologies like Apple Inc.’s iPhone and devices that run Google’s Android operating system.
On Monday, research firm comScore Inc. reported that the share of U.S. smartphone subscribers running devices that use Microsoft’s software fell to 15.1% in February from 19.1% in November. Devices that run on Google Android, meanwhile, increased to 9% from 3.8% while the share of Apple’s iPhone slipped to 25.4% from 25.5%, comScore said.
Microsoft is betting bigger improvement in its position will come in the fall, when the first devices based on a new mobile-phone operating system, called Windows Phone 7, will become available.
With that software, Microsoft is working with a much broader set of handset makers than it is on the Pink devices, though it is still getting more involved in hardware design with those partners than it has in the past.
People familiar with the matter said the software on the new Pink phones resembles elements of the Windows Phone 7 software, but devices that run on the two technologies aren’t expected to be able to run the same applications.
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