The rumors from earlier this month were true: Verizon is again selling the Microsoft Kin phones.
This time around, however, Verizon is positioning them as feature phones, not smartphones. Verizon has lowered the price of the required data plans for the phones and has added an "m" onto the names of the devices, as well.
The newly rebranded Kin ONEm and Kin TWOm are available on month-to-month, one-year and two-year contracts. On a two-year contract, the phones are $19.99 and $49.99. Without a yearly contract, the prices of the phones are $119.99 and $219.99, respectively. Data plans are not required, but are optional. CNET notes that Verizon is offering a $15 per month plan for 150MB or an unlimited plan for $29.99 per month. There is also a $1.99 per MB pay-as-you-go option
Industry watchers see the re-introduction of the Kins as Verizon's attempt to unload stock of the devices on which Microsoft pulled the plug in late June -- just two months after rolling them out with much fanfare. Microsoft’s decision to use neither Windows Mobile nor Windows Phone OS 7 as the operating system — instead it was a hybrid of sorts of the two — left company watchers scratching their heads. Microsoft’s failure to provide an app store for the devices was another ding. Once Verizon introduced the Kins with exorbitantly priced data plans, they seemed unlikely to get the kind of uptake Microsoft had hoped.
Microsoft nixed the European Kin introduction, folded the Kin team into the Windows Phone 7 unit (but moved them again, according to sources, into the Speech division) and said the company had decided to focus on Windows Phone 7 as its sole new mobile-phone platform.
(An aside: I've heard a rumor that Roz Ho, Corporate Vice President of Premium Mobile Experiences -- who led the integration of the Danger team and spearheaded the Kin development -- has a new job on the Mediaroom IPTV team. I haven't been able to confirm this officially, beyond a corporate spokesperson saying that Ho has a new job in the Interactive Entertainment Business unit.)