Image: Kin One and Two handsets
AP
Microsoft's Kin phones, meant for social networking-savvy teens and twenty-somethings, will not be released in Europe, and Microsoft is discontinuing Kin development in favor of its next smartphone platform, Windows Phone 7.
Image:
By Wilson Rothman
msnbc.com
updated 7/1/2010 3:30:32 PM ET 2010-07-01T19:30:32

Microsoft is putting an end to the Kin phones, social-media handsets aimed at teens and early twentysomethings. Though they received favorable reviews, the phones were hampered by high-priced data plans, and caused market confusion on the eve of the hotly anticipated Windows Phone 7 launch.

The initial scoop came on Wednesday from the tech blog Gizmodo, but was soon followed by a statement from Microsoft, which cited the need to focus on a platform that can compete with Apple's iPhone and Google's Android:

"We have made the decision to focus on our Windows Phone 7 launch and we will not ship Kin in Europe this fall as planned," the statement read. "Additionally, we are integrating our Kin team with the Windows Phone 7 team, incorporating valuable ideas and technologies from Kin into future Windows Phone releases. We will continue to work with Verizon in the U.S. to sell current Kin phones."

(Msnbc.com is a joint venture of Microsoft and NBC Universal.)

The two Kin models made their debut in early May, through Verizon Wireless. The initial prices were $50 for the small Kin One and $100 for the larger Kin Two. Those prices quickly dropped to $30 and $50 respectively, but the up-front cost of the phone was never the problem.

The real problem was the $30-per-month data plan, one that Verizon generally sold with far more full-featured smartphones. The $30-per-month fee didn't even include the unlimited text messaging that teenagers generally require.

The sad thing is, Kin really was a neat idea. Not only did it provide a new interface for managing messages and social media comfortably on a tiny screen, but it logged everything on a server, so that kids who used the phone could see it all on a website too. That unique functionality demanded a lot of background data syncing, however, with a cost that Verizon passed on to Kin buyers in the form of that smartphone data plan.

In the end, Kin was a white elephant, headed for extinction.

The main message, that Microsoft is now focused on Windows Phone 7, is a good one. It just begs the question, why were so many talented people off working on the Kin tangent in the first place?

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Video: Microsoft gives up on 'Kin'

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