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Microsoft cancels Kin teen phones

Image: Kin One and Two handsets
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.Microsoft Corp.

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?