Microsoft has finally released their rumored “Project Pink” handsets, now called the Kin.
Reactions have been varied, with many people pointing to Kin as the next generation of the Sidekick. Whether that is a positive or negative statement depends on your perspective.
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Will the phones sell? Do they have what consumers want in the age of the wildly powerful Nexus One and iPhone 3GS? We’ll take both perspectives and come to a conclusion if the Kin has a chance in today’s market. Does it have a chance to shift momentum for Microsoft, or is it just another failed step on Microsoft’s long mobile history?
Jacob Friedman: Kin Is Doomed To Fail
Despite Microsoft’s best efforts, Kin is set to be a sales bomb. In fact, Kin will jeopardize the sales goodwill Microsoft has earned with the announcement of Windows Phone 7. There are three main reasons for this. First, the hardware that Microsoft is releasing is simply too slow to run Kin’s OS effectively. Second, Kin’s OS turns its back on some of the things Windows Phone 7 does best. And finally, Kin is simply too expensive and it’s so expensive that it will hurt Microsoft’s bottom line.
Kin’s hardware is simply too slow to adequately run the Kin OS. This is painfully obvious when watching demos of the device. Scrolling looks sluggish and stories in a user’s feed open slowly. Furthermore, stories dragged to the “Spot,” Microsoft’s centralized sharing feature accessed by a green dot at the bottom of the screen, take too long to open the relevant sharing apps.
Kin also appears to turn its back on some of Windows Phone 7’s best attributes. Kin has very limited apps features. Where Windows Phone 7 will have an apps ecosystem that it hopes can grow quickly, Kin seems to have limited apps and limited possibilities for development. Kin also has no GPS-based maps, no support for HTML, no Facebook events and oddly (for a “social networking phone”) no way to upload pictures to twitter. Kin also seems incredibly cluttered compared to the Windows Phone 7 OS it’s apparently based on.
More importantly, though, the phone’s just way too expensive. Microsoft is currently holding a giveaway for the Kin with a grand prize (valued at $968) of two Kin phones and a Zune Pass. The Zune Pass is worth $180, meaning that the two phones together are worth about $800 dollars. In short, the phones are about $400 a pop. Even with a hefty carrier subsidy, the phones will likely retail for no less than $100. In fact, UnwiredView pegs the likely price points of the Kin 1 and Kin 2 at $100 and $150 respectively. For that price, potential Kin users will likely snap up a low to mid-range iPhone instead.
In short, it’s too clunky, too ugly, too weird and too expensive. It’s a big step back from Windows Phone 7.
Alex Wilhelm: Kin Is A Good Start, Not A Revolution
I was surprised to see Microsoft launch this phone line right after all the Windows Phone 7 hype, but here it is. The phones are ugly, we can get that out-of-the-way right up front. What I care about however, is what is inside. Does Kin have the guts to sell?
Kin is an attempt by Microsoft to bring a strong mobile social presence to people who do not yet have a smartphone. To be honest, no one with an iPhone is going to move to a Kin, unless they hit this demographic: young people still living at home who are obsessed with sharing their every move.
That demographic is narrow, but it is damn deep. Teens are huge drivers of mobile purchases, egging parents into buying them phones for texting, tweeting, and calling. Small tip, most teens do not have foggiest idea with a “Tweetdeck” is, and don’t want to know.
Did you see the Kin, and say out loud “My Nexus One/iPhone/Pre/Blackberry blows that thing out of the water,”? If so, you are not who this phone is for, whatever Microsoft says.
The online experience, the selective grouping for updates, the entire social platform is a synthesized experience for someone looking to broadcast without hassle. Do you honestly think that too many teens are going to weigh Seesmic and Twitterberry? No, of course not.
So Kin is a simple, one-stop-experience for people looking for a phone that does social and “just works.” How familiar does that sound. Microsoft is taking the Apple approach with the phone by solving a large use case, from end to end.
And as a final note, it works with Zune, whose software (in my humble opinion), is the best music management application ever written. It’s simple, and flexible. Great for teens.
In total, this is not a power phone that you would ever want to do business on, it’s a social phone for people with time and adept thumbs for typing. It does not hit our market, but it should sell well among the people it was designed for.
My only worry is price. This phone needs to no more than $100 with a two-year contract, preferably less. It appears that it’s going to need a hefty subsidy to hit this price, though.
What about me? I still have a Nexus One earmarked as my next phone.
Time solves all riddles, and we cannot predict with certainty. What do you think, will the Kin sell, or should Microsoft have just stuck with the Windows Phone 7 line after all?
Read next: 19 Hands-On Minutes With Microsoft's Kin