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."
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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?