Microsoft's Kin: Preemptive post-mortem, why it went wrong

Microsoft's Kin: Preemptive post-mortem, why it went wrong

Summary: Microsoft's Kin devices have been killed off after selling only 500 phones. It was doomed to fail from the start, and this pre-emptive post-mortem was actually available weeks ago.

SHARE:
21

It has been a bad week for Microsoft. The Kin phones of which it invested so heavily as its younger-person wildcard, the phone which would revolutionise how kids and students use their phone in the socialite atmosphere they live and breathe, failed miserably to launch and landed flat on its face.

The second wind of near-death could have been an opportunity for the target audience to really engage with the device, seeing as the pricing was cut by around half of what it was originally - an extortionate amount which could not have been maintained by the teenager user.

But the Kin is now dead, and the plug has been firmly pulled from the project's life support. Senior editor, Sam Diaz covered the story yesterday afternoon pointing out that the software giant has said very little about the sacrifice.

Microsoft only sold 500 of the devices. Matt Miller, cellphone and smartphone guru made it clear that the intended teenage audience didn't need or want a scaled-down smartphone as iPhone's and BlackBerry's are sophisticated and powerful enough. Teenagers don't want or need to be patronised by being forced upon them a device which let's them do things simply. The need to explore, to have advanced features and settings and an experience of which to learn and create with.

As Mary Jo Foley points out, the wider roll-out of Kin phones to Europe were dashed suddenly, seemingly going against the 'official' word of a Twitter post. Microsoft really did just drop it from a great height without telling anybody about it, even those working on it.

So what was the problem exactly?

Well, the phones were crap, for a start. The overall concept was not thought about  properly. In how I see it, the teenage audience were indeed thought about a great deal - but in principle and in theory alone, most probably by a group of near middle-aged designers and product managers writing concepts on a whiteboard in their small, nuclear setting with no input or consideration from the demographic they were discussing.

I hate to say, "I told you so", and people criticised what I said at the time - but I wouldn't say I was wrong.

"The Generation Y choose the technology, the products and the services to use and to buy. The market doesn't dictate to us, and we do not usually conform to products or services “aimed” at us. If we want to use it, we will, but not because a company or organisation says we should based on what they offer."

Any last words?

Topics: Mobility, Microsoft, Telcos

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

21 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Watching Microsoft die by a thousand cuts is getting too painful

    Seriously, for their own good Microsoft should concede the mobile platform battlefield and start making arrangements for some sort of strategic alliance around Android or even follow HP's steps and move to something Linux based.<br><br>Microsoft, get real or lose out. You can either concede the mobile platform battlefield or die slowly, it's your choice.
    OS Reload
    • RE: Microsoft's Kin: Preemptive post-mortem, why it went wrong

      @OS Reload

      "some sort of strategic alliance around Android"

      NONONO ! That would mean they wouldn't CONTROL the product !

      Can you really see M$ learning to work and play well with others?
      Jkirk3279
  • From what I understand, MS did a lot of research ...

    ... to determine what the phone's intended demographic wanted. I think MS should have distributed non-finished versions of the phones to reviewers, bloggers, and a wide spectrum of the intended audience (not necessarily a huge amount of people) under NDAs, and get their feedback of the <b>actual products</b>, to mitigate risk of failure. (That is precisely why MS has large beta programs for its software.) If reviews come out of the unfinished phones, does it really matter? Overall that would probably be a plus anyway, because MS would be getting feedback from an even larger audience. (This is precisely where the iPhone 4 fell short as well.) As long as MS doesn't publicly discuss its plans, so that people say e.g., "MS promised this, but didn't deliver," MS should be alright.
    P. Douglas
    • RE: Microsoft's Kin: Preemptive post-mortem, why it went wrong

      @P. Douglas I've just been talking to Mary Jo. Her article (<a href="http://www.zdnet.com/blog/microsoft/five-surprising-things-about-microsofts-kin/5867" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">http://www.zdnet.com/blog/microsoft/five-surprising-things-about-microsofts-kin/5867</a>) says that many were consulted, over 50,000 apparently. Yet the phrase "too many cooks" comes to mind. A research sample that wide is absolutely ridiculous and it's going to cause nothing but trouble collating and translating the research that comes from it. If they're using surveys and electronic collection forms (which they could have only done with such numbers) this doesn't constitute as "consultation". <br><br>Sure, you can get a number of ideas as to what to include, what not to include etc., but it won't be perfect and it'll still not have the massive impact that it should have wanted to go for. I think the pricing killed off the Kin way before the design/lack of apps support did - but those didn't exactly help.
      zwhittaker
      • You need feedback on the front and back ends

        @zwhittaker,

        In my opinion, MS only got good feedback on the front end of its research. I believe MS should have also gotten good feedback on the back end - i.e. of the actual products - before finalizing and shipping the products. It's kind of like baking a cake. You may learn what ingredients you need to put in the cake, but before you start distributing it broadly, it's important to get good feedback about how people think you made it.
        P. Douglas
      • @P. Douglas: "It's kind of like baking a cake." Exactly!

        It's just like baking a cake... ? and making a mess. <br><br>It happens more often than you think, some people simply can't cook once you take away the stove they were used too.<br><br>Microsoft's old stove is gone and now their helpless cooks struggle.
        OS Reload
  • Quick question...

    If you were a manufacturer, and handed a set of "new and improved sanitary pads" to male reviewers, how do you expect the reiews to turn out?

    The KIN wasn't exacly the greatest, but once prople who do not belong to the target demographic started reviewing the phones then, obviously, came all the bad reviews and bad-mouthing.

    Unless you are a teenager (are you?), you and Gizmodo/Engadget/... shouldn't have been so loud on your reviews. If the KIDS targeted liked the Sidekick, then chances are they would have easily formed their opinions on the devices themselves.

    That's my take.
    Tola1005
    • RE: Microsoft's Kin: Preemptive post-mortem, why it went wrong

      @Tola1005 Maybe, just maybe, as someone who's very much part of their target demographic and know my stuff, and could have offered some very valuable opinions. Had they asked me not to blog it - I would have respected it - because ultimately, if they ask for help, then it would be my pleasure to assist in any way I can - regardless of the company.

      But they didn't ask. They didn't ask - someone who's (a bit) influential in this particular demographic, which shows that frankly they couldn't care less as to what teenagers actually thought.
      zwhittaker
    • RE: Microsoft's Kin: Preemptive post-mortem, why it went wrong

      @Tola1005 <br><br>Not a teenager and haven't been for quite a while. On the other hand, I think I have a bit of knowledge about what that proverbial teenager is looking for from both home and work. Oddly, most seem to want a device without the artificial limitations of the Kin though that may be biased since the Kin never made it across the border. One of my neices did have a Kin -- gift from her parents. When my daughter and niece compared features on their phones, the Backflip won hands down over the Kin in most categories. As for the cost, around here, $30 Cdn. would be near the low end of monthly plans without data so I find a bit of humour in the claims that the plan cost was a big actor in the Kin's failure.<br><br>...From a parent's point of view, a cellphone is the gift that keeps right on taking.
      DNSB
  • Wasn't it the contract, too?

    I don't think the devices were that expensive. It's the service contract cost that bites. Has anyone come up with a reasonably useful phone that doesn't set you back an ungodly amount of money each month? If you're going to pay $30 each month ($720 over two years), $50 or $100 for the device isn't really that much. Don't the carriers have to provide some means for an affordable data option if phones will succeed with those who can't fork over hundreds of dollars a year for data?
    dunraven
    • You make a good point

      @dunraven,

      I think the next time MS does a program like the Kin, it should have a beta program that provides users access to the entire experience, so that it knows how to adjust things, before it finally releases the products.
      P. Douglas
    • RE: Microsoft's Kin: Preemptive post-mortem, why it went wrong

      @dunraven Sorry, yeah - you were right. I apologise I should have clarified. The device prices aren't bad. The service prices from the networks (and negotiated with Microsoft) are over the top, as per my last article on the $85 a month Kin.
      zwhittaker
  • RE: Microsoft's Kin: Preemptive post-mortem, why it went wrong

    Obviously they did not do their homework in terms of market research. Here's my take... they targeted the wrong market segment. The Kin is still innovative, just not for millennials who are wired for technology and like to exploit all the capabilities they can get their hands on. This is a device for more in-tune to the needs of those baby-boomers and traditionals who are embracing consumer-based social media, but need to do it in the simplest way possible when going mobile...

    No, this market segment is not sexy, but it's big and there's is a whole lot of baby boomers out there...
    RAteshian
  • RE: Microsoft's Kin: Preemptive post-mortem, why it went wrong

    The phone's were crap, they were well thought out and well designed with an intuitive UI. What happened was Verizon stepped in and started charting $30 + the phone plan making it out of reach for the younger crowd. Also because it was a Verizon phone it was limited on apps and the Verizon app subscription sucks. Where it went wrong was when Verizon stepped into the picture. At least Microsoft got a good UI out of it and can start it as a building block for Microsoft Windows Phone 7.
    Loverock Davidson
    • RE: Microsoft's Kin: Preemptive post-mortem, why it went wrong

      @Loverock Davidson

      As the well known expert on the Kin phone that you are pretending to be, perhaps you could explain how you downloaded and installed applications (aka apps) on the Kin.

      Inquiring minds are eager to know how you managed that feat.
      DNSB
  • Hey Zack where'd you get the 500 number? I thought that was just rumor

    Are you just spreading that rumor or do you have a definitive source for it now?

    Also you are not the target market. It was non tech savy/hungry tweens. Think 10-14 year old girls that just want to blab with each other.
    Johnny Vegas
    • RE: Microsoft's Kin: Preemptive post-mortem, why it went wrong

      @Johnny Vegas An article in the LA Times this morning stated a number closer to 10,000 actual units sold. MS refuses to provide numbers, however.
      No matter, even 10,000 is a horrible number for so much invested.
      babyboomer57
    • RE: Microsoft's Kin: Preemptive post-mortem, why it went wrong

      @Johnny Vegas Hey - if the BBC quote it being 500, then I'm all for piggybacking on that.
      zwhittaker
  • RE: Microsoft's Kin: Preemptive post-mortem, why it went wrong

    IMHO, they insulted the kids and their parents by oversimplifying its functionalities. The consumer is a smarter and more sophisticated breed now.

    Their marketeers, as well as the developing management, undershot the consumer by using old-style thinkers trying to reach an emerging market that emerged years ago with a product that attains that goal.

    I see elementary school kids running around with Blackberry's here and I don't live in a technology-rich part of the country.

    The TV ads were like something out of the early 1960?s with an idiot-phone inserted (an intellectually-challenged smartphone).
    Mystgreen
  • 50,000 teens/tweens were asked what they wanted in a phone.

    Reminds me of a quote from Jobs - "You cant just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them. By the time you get it built, theyll want something new."<br><br>And that something new is smart phones with Apps and cool games, IM, full mobile browser and true social capabilities; not a glorified feature-phone that belongs in the Paris Hilton Sidekick-hacking era. Sounds like MS missed a few key features with the Kin.
    dave95.