The concept of a self-branded Microsoft phone (or two) actually making it to market is more believable than ever. A deterrent frequently cited in years past was Microsoft's vested interest in keeping its Windows Mobile hardware partners happy -- but as even their staunchest supporters (think HTC and LG) have turned to Android to shore up their smartphone lineups, it'd be far less of a backstabbing move on Redmond's part to get into the business next year than it would've been in, say, 2006 or even 2008. Add in the fact that the Zune HD shares 99 percent of its DNA with what could be a top-notch Windows Mobile-beating smartphone, and... well, it'd actually be a little ridiculous at this point if they didn't move in that direction, wouldn't it?

This discussion takes us back once again to Project Pink, the oft-rumored secret package of hardware, software, and services (or some combination thereof) allegedly being developed deep within Microsoft's skunkworks. Last we'd heard it'd be based on Windows Mobile 7 Chassis 1 with a heavy dose of 2009-spec components capable of chewing through processor-intensive apps and games, and now 9to5Mac says it's received information that Microsoft will be releasing two Pink devices next year, likely at CES. We've heard for a long time that Pink is one of the fruits (perhaps the only fruit?) of the company's Danger acquisition, and to that end, the Pink devices will apparently be sourced from Sharp -- Danger's primary Hiptop ODM, up to and including the Sidekick LX 2009 -- and will feature "Microsoft+Sharp" co-branding, not unlike Garmin Asus. The handsets are said to be codenamed "Turtle" and "Pure," both sliders of some sort with Pure possibly destined for Verizon. As you might expect from a product developed with Danger, it'll feature tight app store support with carrier integration, but otherwise, there's nothing else to this latest noise. Considering Danger's utter lack of experience with Windows Mobile, that could account for the amount of time it's taking for Microsoft to show its Pink cards -- assuming it's all WinMo- or WinCE-based to begin with. That would also imply that the company would have to start revealing details on its primary next-gen mobile platform in January, which gives 6.5 extraordinarily little breathing room at the top of the food chain.

Of course, 9to5Mac isn't exactly a bastion of reliable Microsoft banter -- we turn to the likes of Mary Jo Foley for that, who's been providing much of the guidance on Pink so far -- but it's an interesting rumor that we think holds far more water than The Inquirer's bunk piece from a little under a year ago. Let's not forget that Danger has a history of procuring its own hardware, and that precedent has transferred to Microsoft by virtue of the purchase. If we see Microsoft+Sharp gear with GSM radios bow in a little over three months, you won't find our jaws on the floor.

HDTV Listings for September 19, 2009