What does Kin's fate say for Windows Phone 7?

The Kin debacle demonstrates Microsoft's mismanaged mobile strategy and could affect the success of Windows Phone 7

Microsoft dropped a stunner on the tech world this week by terminating Kin, its social media-centered phone for teenagers.

Just a mere six weeks after its long-gestating birth in May, Kins will no longer be sold in the U.S. and plans for a fall European release have been scrapped. Internally, the Kin team will be rolled into the Windows Phone 7 team, according to Microsoft.

The Kin came in two models, One and Two, and were the result of Microsoft's purchase in early 2008 of Danger, the company behind the technology for T-Mobile's Sidekick phones. The Kins were then in mysterious development for what felt like an eternity under the code name Pink.

Theories abound as to why Kin got the axe. It's likely a combination of vague marketing, Microsoft's cluelessness about today's youth market, the lack of an app store, and high prices for the phones and a way too expensive data plan from Verizon (US$30 per month). All of this inevitably led to poor sales.

Just two days before Kin's death, Verizon dropped Kin prices dramatically from $49.99 to $29.99 for Kin One and from $99.99 to $49.99 for Kin Two. A last ditch effort to pull in a few suckers? You betcha. These should have been the original Kin prices. 100 bucks with a $30 monthly data plan for a "social" phone for teens and tweens? Seems unreasonable. The Kins should have come with label reading "Affluent parents only." The original Kin Two pricing, in fact, was similar to the full-featured Droid Eris by HTC and was actually more expensive than the Palm Pre Plus and the HTC Touch Pro2.

Microsoft also left the Kin without a clear operating system identity. It was built on neither Windows Phone 7 nor Windows Mobile 6.x technology, but a hybrid of both.

Bottom line: Nobody was buying the Kin, and Microsoft ran out of patience - millions of dollars in development and advertising be damned.

Gonna state the obvious here: This is an epic blunder by Microsoft at a time when they really need to look like they know what they are doing with mobile. It's getting ugly out there for Windows Mobile. Apple and RIM are cranking on all cylinders and Google has flooded the market with Droid phones from various hardware partners. No one I know has a Windows Mobile phone, and I know my share of gadget geeks. It's simply not on American consumers' radar and it's another five long months until Windows Phone 7 is available.

It's also alarming that Microsoft spent so much money developing the Kins and got no results. For a major company to pour millions of research and advertising dollars into a major product and then pull it is a sign of poor planning, lack of focus and wasteful spending. The Danger acquisition alone cost Redmond $500 million.

Windows Phone 7's arrival would probably have overshadowed Kin even if it had lived, but the Kin's short, unhappy life was a debacle. It shines a light Microsoft's continued mismanagement of its mobile strategy and won't soon fade from peoples' minds as the never-ending wait for Windows Phone 7 drags on.

Shane O'Neill is a senior writer at CIO.com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/smoneill. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter at twitter.com/CIOonline.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags consumer electronicsmobile phonesMicrosoftWindowsPhonessoftwaremicrosoft kinoperating systems

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Shane O'Neill

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Matthew Stivala

HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer

The HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer is a great device that fits perfectly into my fast paced and mobile lifestyle. My first impression of the printer itself was how incredibly compact and sleek the device was.

Armand Abogado

HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer

Wireless printing from my iPhone was also a handy feature, the whole experience was quick and seamless with no setup requirements - accessed through the default iOS printing menu options.

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?