Five surprising things about Microsoft's Kin

Five surprising things about Microsoft's Kin

Summary: Now that the Kin cat is out of the bag, here are a few things I found surprising about the devices (after reporting for more than two years on every twist and turn about Pink).


It's official: Microsoft's Pink project is no longer a mystery (or even a partial mystery). The details are out, and the name of the phones, targeted at the teen/twenty-something market, is Kin.

There have been plenty of rumors. But now the specs and actual photos are here. There's a Kin One and a Kin Two ("Turtle" and "Pure"). Sharp, Verizon and Vodafone are, indeed, the partners. Verizon is going to start offering the first Kins in the U.S. in May and via Vodafone in Germany Europe in "the fall.

Now that the Kin cat is out of the bag, here are a few things I found surprising about the devices (after reporting for more than two years on every twist and turn about Pink):

1. The Kin phones make use of the "same core elements as Windows Phone 7." The Kin isn't a dumbed-down Windows Phone (as we'd been hearing it might be). Kin phones have Exchange connectivity, Zune music/video capabilities and dedicated Bing search buttons, just like Windows Phone 7 phones will. The Kin phones will be the "first Windows Phones that ship with Zune," said Kin team members at the launch today. (I asked several team members what the operating system is inside and no one was willing to say more than it is Windows Compact Edition-based, just like Windows Phone OS 7.0 is; they wouldn't talk about version numbers or whether the two phone OSes have more in common than just their CE roots.)

2. The Kin team spent "thousands of hours" with the target audience before they wrote a line of code. This information-gathering project was part of what was known as "Project Muse" (another codename I had heard and wondered about). Microsoft teams like to pride themselves on doing customer outreach and telemetry, but they interviewed 50,000 (!) people, I was told. Planning started back in the summer of 2007, a year before Microsoft acquired Danger.

3. Speaking of Danger -- and the Sidekick -- the Kin doesn't seem much like a Sidekick at all. Yes, a bunch of the Danger folks defected and/or were let go, post acquisition. But calling the Kin "the next-generation Sidekick" isn't really accurate. I asked whether there were any elements of the Danger OS in the new phones and was told no.

4. There are no apps for the Kin. No app marketplace and nothing other than the Kin service which will connect users to their Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and Kin Studio (cloud services collection). At least for now, there are no plans to introduce apps for the Kin devices.

5. Microsoft kept the Kin name a secret until today. I had a chance to ask Roz Ho, Corporate Vice President of Microsoft's Premium Mobile Service team and the head of the Pink project about the "Kin" name. Like other Microsoft execs, she emphasized the "kinship" connections of Kin. She also said Microsoft considered lots of names -- possibly as many as a thousand -- before deciding on Kin. (She wouldn't share any of the other names; I asked.) It's kind of amazing was available and that no one figured out until today that Pink = Kin.

I've got some more interesting tidbits about Kin, Pink and other related topics from a conversation I had with Ho coming up in my next post. Stay tuned.

Topics: CXO, Microsoft, Mobility, Telcos


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • Appless and Hapless

    Why are there no apps for Kin? Any cheap feature phone can at least run some apps, like Java apps. Cheap BREW handsets can run apps. Why on earth would anyone buy these appless and hapless Kins?
  • Loser!

    "there are no plans to introduce apps for the Kin devices"

    It is 2010. What kind of phone does not have apps? Only "feature" (AKA dumb phones like the one I own) phones.
    • It is a feature phone.

      Try reading the article next time.

      As for apps... yeah, no-one really cares.
      Sleeper Service
      • It's not a feature phone - it's a Walled Garden

        These phones represent absolute vendor lock-in. Most cheap feature phones allow you to run Java apps. Kin forbids you. You can only run Microsoft installed apps. You cannot change anything. The Bing Button is hardwired to use Bing only. You cannot use a calendar. You are forbidden from using any Instant Messaging. Welcome to Microsoft's Walled Garden, where you do as Ballmer says.
        • And?

          It seems to work for others.

          Plus Zune pass is integrated which is a win.
          Sleeper Service
          • The Kin is Dead! Worse than a feature phone

            Every feature phone I ever owned, I could download a Java based Instant Messaging client, and access all the major IM services, like AIM, Yahoo etc. With Kin, I can't run any of those little Java apps I could run on my feature phone. It won't allow any IM app. No self respecting teen will buy a phone that will not allow instant messaging. It's dead. The Kin is dead.
          • IM is old generation

            welcome to the world of web 2.0 derivatives aka social networking. I haven't seen any teen lately hanging out on IMs. Period. with that said, I have seen most of the teens hanging out on Facebook largely, Twitter and MySpace and few other social networks. Txting==teens is largely known fact. I don't say having appsotre wouldn't be nice feature, but I think Microsoft would let the developers create Apps that would target either Zune, Social Networking or Microsoft Cloud Services later in future as a software update once they release full featured Windows Phone 7.
            Ram U
          • So it doesn't do IM... So they send a TXT message instead.

            and your point is....?
          • Twitter and Facebook are hardly Walled garden

            I think this is aimed at kids who spend all their time in their social networks. If the Kin does that for them in a joined-up way, why would they need other Apps?

            There is always WP7 if you want a more general device.

            I'm guessing noone on this board is in the target market anyway.
          • I know, iPhone:

            walled garden with App Store.

            Android: walled garden with Android Market.

            They look to be working fine for Apple and Google

            I've never seen Market ANALyst complain about those, yet he'll cry far and loud how bad MS is for having a Windows Phone 7 Marketplace.

            Well, when you carry the hate he apparentlly does, anything MS does will be seen as evil, even if it ends up saving a couple of puppies or kittens or something.
            John Zern
        • So why do you care?

          Why not just save everyone some time and just say:

          [i]I (Market Analyst) absolutelly [b]hate[/b] anything Microsoft related, so take a guess on what my feelings are about this new MS product that I'll never buy or even touch.[/i]

          No need to post a long, drawn out rant, just cut and paste that small paragraph, and we'll get the message.

          Or maybe just post a sad face, we'll fill in the rest ourselves based on past posts. :)
          John Zern
        • It's probably right on its demographic

          I suspect that if Microsoft surveyed 50,000 people they'll have a good idea of whether an app store was really necessary for their target users.

          As somebody has already pointed out, app stores are still walled gardens. I own an iPhone 3G, I bought it sim-free from apple and run it on a non fixed-term contract. The idea being that I wouldn?t be trapped in one of O2?s extortionate 24 month contracts and could change the phone/contract/carrier whenever I wanted. Here?s the kicker though, I?m 18 months in and have probably spent more than the phone is currently worth on apps, I can?t move to android or WP7 cos I?ll lose all those brilliant apps I paid for.

          I?m left with a choice, buy a new iPhone and port my apps, or bin them and start again on a new phone. Once you start investing in apps you?re emotionally and/or financially tied to that platform, unless you?re loaded and are happy chucking your money away; but I suspect most teens and 20-somethings don?t fall into this category. My 20-something girlfriend for one would be perfectly happy with one of these phones, although I admittedly would not.
        • Who does Microsoft think they are...

          ... Apple?
        • Go buy Apple then.

          Oh wait...
    • You're not the target market.

      Simply put: You're not the target market.

      This isn't a smart phone, and isn't aimed at you.
      • everybody loves games.

        with the exception of some old audience that i don't think that it is focused this cellphone.
    • it's a phone

      You don't need apps to make a phone call.
      • Full circle?

        So, anbody here remember when cell phones first appeared? You used the device to actually make a phone call away from your home, amazing! Today's devices aren't cell phones, they're hand held computers that also make calls, in many cases not so well, and make big bucks for the cell companies. Everyone doesn't need apps, some folks just need a phone to communicate, imagine that, just to communicate. Now theres a new (old) concept that works!
        Dr. Frumious Bandersnatch
  • RE: Five surprising things about Microsoft's Kin

    Good article, the more I hear about these Kin phones the more interested I get. I'd like to hear more about pricing but that will come in time. I have to wonder if Verizon is going to classify these as feature phones and do the 25MB data plan or force the unlimited $30 data plan on people.

    As for the apps, there are no apps yet but it wouldn't surprise me if people started making them for this phone. It was harder to do with BREW phones, but given this is Windows and there are a lot of developers out there it will come eventually.
    Loverock Davidson
    • only 25 mb?

      Are you sure that would be enough? Looking at the phone,
      it's awfully multimedia heavy