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Monday, April 12, 2010, 12:00 pm PT (03:00 pm ET)

Microsoft unveils Project Pink as Kin social media phones for kids

Project Pink, an internal effort built upon Microsoft's Danger acquisition, was officially revealed today at a "social event" which presented two new phones branded Kin and targeted at young phone users.

Like Microsoft's existing Sidekick phones sold through T-Mobile, the new Kin phones will be built by Sharp. However, the company has broke with T-Mobile to sell the phones through Verizon Wireless and its parent company Vodaphone.

Microsoft's presentation was limited on details, but Drake Martinet, who covered the event live for the Wall Street Journal's "All Things Digital" blogs, noted that "This product, it seems, will be built on a small, specialized version of Windows Phone 7."

Microsoft showed the expected two form factors, originally code named "Turtle" and "Pure," under their official names Kin 1 and Kin 2. "One is a candybar with a QWERTY [physical] board, the other looks like a smaller, round device with a slide keyboard," Martinet reported.

The Kin 1 hardware is a squatty form factor with 2.6" 320x240 display; a 5 megapixel camera with a bright LED flash and geotagging features; 4GB of storage, Bluetooth, GPS, and accelerometer; and a mono speaker.

The Kin 2 phone is a conventional candybar form factor with 3.4" 480x320 display; an 8 megapixel camera with a bright LED flash and geotagging features, and capable of recording HD-resolution video; 8GB of storage, Bluetooth, GPS, and accelerometer; and stereo speakers.

Microsoft Kin phone


Microsoft played up Kin's integration with social networks like Facebook, Twitter and Myspace, saying "you can even update statuses to social networks."

The other features on the phones tie into Microsoft's other businesses, including Bing search with GPS-aware advertising as well as Zune music integration. The company didn't outline any third party developers working on applications, or clarify whether the Kin phones would ever run external applications or apps designed for the Windows Phone 7 models the company hopes to release this winter.

Kin phones evidently won't work with Windows Phone 7 apps, as Microsoft spoke of both as completely separate product lines, just as it positioned the Zune and PlaysForSure music players are separate products each running their own incompatible music DRM. Just like Zune and PFS, the new Kin, Zune and Windows Phone 7 are all based on the same Windows CE core operating system.

According to PC World report by Ginny Mies, the new phones don't offer any photo or video editing tools, no calendar support, no universal inbox, can't upload photos or video to Twitter, and do not support Flash or Silverlight. Their storage memory also can't be expanded.

In addition to being targeted at young people (the same audience as Microsoft's existing T-Mobile sidekick), a verizon executive joined the stage to emphasize that it expects the new models to also to parents "or anyone who is all about photos and video."

Microsoft has not released pricing details yet, nor have Verizon or Vodaphone. T-Mobile's low prices for mobile service have historically been a major reason why young users have been attracted to the Sidekick. The new phones are set for US release in May 2010, and a Fall release for Europe.