Microsoft's Ho: The Kin is not a 'Microsoft phone'

Microsoft's Ho: The Kin is not a 'Microsoft phone'

Summary: Roz Ho -- the former head of Microsoft's Mac Business Unit, who became the leader of PMX (Premium Mobile Services) in 2007 -- wanted to make sure I knew that Kin isn't a Microsoft phone. It's a Windows Phone, she said.


For more than two years, I've been writing about Microsoft Corporate Vice President Roz Ho's baby, but she and I haven't been allowed to talk. Today, as the curtain lifted on Kin, the Microsoft Pink phones, I was finally granted a phone conversation with Ho.

Ho  -- the former head of Microsoft's Mac Business Unit, who became the leader of PMX (Premium Mobile Services) in 2007 -- wanted to make sure I knew that Kin isn't a Microsoft phone. Neither of the models announced today are going to be Microsoft-branded. The Kins are Sharp phones, she said, and Sharp is just one of a number of Microsoft OEM partners on the mobile front.

"This (Kin) is another Windows Phone," Ho said.

I asked her whether other OEMs had been considered to produce the Kin phones and was told "Microsoft talks to a a lot of partners" (which I am taking as a polite "no"). I asked whether different OEMs might be developing/delivering future Kin phones and was told no comment.

My take-away: Even though it's not Microsoft-branded (beyond being a Windows Phone), the Kin is more like the Xbox and the Zune than it is like a PC, in terms of it being a "Microsoft" product.

There's lots Microsoft isn't commenting on, regarding Kin, in spite of the fact the phones launched today. Microsoft isn't commenting on device pricing, pricing of the cloud features for the phones, how/if the Kins will connect at some point to the Xbox/Xbox Live service and how Microsoft plans to make money with the devices, targeted at the 15- to 25-year-old set. (I'd guess Microsoft is planning to charge consumers for the unlimited photo/video storage in the cloud that its execs mentioned today, as well as charge for other Kin services, but so far, the company isn't sharing those particulars.)

"This is a two screens and a cloud strategy," she quipped, noting that the Kins will connect to PCs and provide users with a variety of cloud services that build on top of the company's Windows Live store, just like Windows Phone 7 will.

Ho said the Kin team has learned a lot from the Danger team that Microsoft acquired in 2008. Microsoft isn't using any of the Java-based Danger code in the new phones but did incorporate the services thinking and overall "experience" approaches from the Danger team, she said.

"We stayed true to our vision" which Microsoft decided upon before it bought Danger, Ho said. "Online cloud services were integral to the phone" from the get-go, she said. (I guess that partly explains why I first heard of "Pink" as a set of premium mobile services aimed at consumers, and only later heard Microsoft also was doing its own phone.)

Ho said to expect the Kin/PMX team to share its learnings with the larger Windows Phone team, and the Windows Phone 7 team -- and vice versa.

"Over time, expect to see a lot of alignment" among Windows Phone 7 and Kin, she said. When I asked whether this would mean we'd see things like the Kin Studio show up for Windows Phone 7 users, she declined to comment.

With the Kin, "we really started with a clean sheet of paper," Ho said. "We knew we were going to do a social phone and we really kept our focus on that."

Topics: Software, CXO, Microsoft, Mobility, Operating Systems, Telcos, Windows


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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  • Microsoft's brand = poison

    It proves that Microsoft knows that its brand name is poison. People generally don't want to buy a product with the Microsoft name stamped on the front.

    Microsoft's famous trait of "eating its own dogfood" has come into play again with Kin. By replacing Java with proprietary Silverlight, it has isolated itself from the J2ME ecosystem that every feature phone user enjoys. Not clever when you're a minor player in the phone biz.
    • I stand corrected

      >>Plain wrong J2ME!=Silverlight.J2ME is server side, Silverlight is client side. With that simple fact you proved yourself as an hate spewing machine.

      Sorry, I read it as J2EE. My old eyes. I stand corrected.
      Ram U
      • JME is client side

        I agree that the response is from a close minded Microsoft hater but need to correct you about J2ME.

        JME (formerly J2ME) is client side.

        Please check =>
      • Java EE = server, Java ME = client

        Jave EE is their enterprise edition, which is
        normally put on a server.

        Java SE is their standard edition, which is
        normally put on consumer devices like PCs.

        Java ME is their micro edition, which is designed
        for small devices like phones.
        • My bad, I read it as J2EE. Sorry. n/t

          Ram U
    • Disagree.

      "People generally don't want to buy a product
      with the Microsoft name stamped on the front."

      A very small group. Most people don't care
      which brand it is, as long as it gets the job

      "Microsoft's famous trait of 'eating its own
      dogfood' has come into play again with Kin."

      Do you even know what the phrase means?

      To eat ones own dogfood is to use the products
      you develop or create in your own business.

      It's a practice that IMO more companies should
      be doing. It helps to highlight the strengths
      and weaknesses of the product to the people who
      develop the product.

      "By replacing Java with proprietary
      Silverlight, it has isolated itself from the
      J2ME ecosystem that every feature phone user

      Not every phone. I haven't looked much at
      feature phones, but Apple's striking down stuff
      like Java in their smart phones.

      In addition - just because a phone has a
      certain capability doesn't mean everybody is
      using it. In particular, "feature phones"
      aren't really expected to be as powerful as
      smart phones, and aren't aimed at techies and
      power users.
      • Disagree, too

        Comment: "People generally don't want to buy a product
        with the Microsoft name stamped on the front."

        Your response: "A very small group. Most people don't care which brand it is, as long as it gets the job

        Why that is not true - because people are slaves to marketing. In reality, MS is all that most people know. MS's success is not due to them being a trusted brand name or their products being good products, their success is due to being some what of a monopoly and marketing powerhouse.

        With that being said, I know if I see MS on an item I stay away from it. Why? Because their product is not to be trusted. And its not about perfection, either. Nothing is really perfect. But when you pay top dollar you would like it to be all that you pay for and MS's products have never been worth the money.

        Therefore, To me that name is poison. And many of my friends and associates are the same way, of course, birds of a feather....

        Anyway.... the the basic point that the first guy made about the MS brand is true. And MS knows it.

        Oh... the rest of your post was right on but it says nothing to change the fact the MS's name is bad.
    • Wrong, It proves it's not an MS phone

      just curious as to why you can't seem to understand that?
      John Zern
    • after a while...

      ha, ha... after a while...and remember, Windows 7 is NOT made by Microsoft Office as well.

      But...'Although the monkey might dress in silk, monkey it still is.'
      Marco nn
      • We should leave Steve Jobs out of this

        And quit calling him a monkey!
        John Zern
        • Yes..

          "Dance Monkeyboy" video


          BTW: I really don't care about any Steve...but I could not resist...
          Marco nn
  • Trying to distance themselves already I see.

    • Give them some benefit of doubt

      I see your point; "this isn't my phone" isn't
      exactly nailing one's trousers to the mast. But
      maybe the point of this phone is to develop a
      concept and you need a phone to do it, made by
      someone who knows how to make a phone. If you
      didn't have Sharp do it, you'd be rummaging
      through cheap Chinese duplicators to come up
      with something that may or may not work.
      Perhaps they're hoping that the phone will be a
      bit of an underground hit with the kids, and
      they'll learn some lessons that two or three
      iterations later will produce something mass
      marketable, or at minimum spur more development
      of the cloud infrastructure stuff. And yeah, no
      point stamping "Microsoft" on the thing with
      all the baggage that carries.

      Disclaimer: in another life I worked on mobile
      • What baggage?

        Nobody cares that it says "Microsoft" on the outside of the XBox: it still sells.

        It looks like the Zune is doing better then many other players on the market, with Apple and SanDisk ahead of them, so it looks as though "Microsoft" on it isn't hurting it.

        I would argue that people would prefer MS on the front as opposed to some other brand they never heard of.
        John Zern
        • Microsoft logo carries baggage

          15 years ago Microsoft was driving the tech
          industry. Today it's lost that lead, and many
          of its projects are tarnished with a bad
          reputation. I've not seen the market research,
          but I wouldn't be surprised if the phone were
          tested with and without Microsoft's logo, a
          logoless phone would score better than a
          Microsoft branded one.

          Once upon a time Chrysler and Mitsubishi had a
          joint venture to produce a sports car.
          Consumers bought Mitsubishi and didn't buy
          Chrysler, even though it was the same car with
          another logo. I suspect that today Microsoft
          consumer products would suffer from the same
          kind of problem.

          There's a big segment of the public that has
          negative associations with Microsoft.
          • So how did that answer my question?

            That the name hasn't stopped XBox or Zune from selling? It hasn't stopped Windows 7 from selling.

            I think you're seeing something which isn't there.
            John Zern
          • How do you know

            that the name hasn't cost sales of Xbox and
            Zune? Are you saying that there's nobody who
            didn't buy those things because they're from
            Microsoft? I didn't buy either of them, and I
            wouldn't because I am not comfortable with
            Microsoft's ability to build consumer products.
            Am I the only person like that in the world?
            Microsoft has a lot of baggage. Specifically
            Zune, PlaysForSure, (how come only commenters
            on ZDNet seem to ever have heard of
            PlaysForSure) and all the other spectacular
        • X-Box???

          Come on man. X-Box sells because its a video game system. A system targeted specifically at common people that know little about software and so on and kids. Horrible example. And as for as Zune or other MP3,4,or 5 players is concerned, some people would buy a generic player as long as it works.

          But here is where you messed up at:

          "I would argue that people would prefer MS on the front as opposed to some other brand they never heard of."

          Now this is the point I was making previously. That MS is just a popular name that people recognize. And in this world of marketing influences, popularity wins... in most cases. Therefore, as of now, seeing the MS name on something "might" still be good for sales but that will soon change as more options are made and people really get to see the difference between brands.
  • what a load of bs

    it is not a microrosft phone and yet they proudly present it to
    the world? they developed the software and the hardware
    (with their inhouse danger team) but it is not a microrosft
    phone? gmab.

    sharp will built it, sure, but foxconn is building the iphone
    too and yet the iphone is not a foxconn phone. how is that?

    after microsoft abandoned "plays for sure" a few years ago
    for their own hardware zune line (and stapped all their
    "partners" vigorously in the back), they now come out again
    with their own hardware in competition to their "partners".

    but don't fear, shameless microsoft shill mary-jo will deliver
    whatever message they want her to. how absurd it may be.
    • Just Like Apple and Google. Imagine that.

      Apple partnered long ago with resellers, at shows, ect.

      Then they drop their sellers by opening their own stores [i]in direrct competition with them[/i] while pulling support?

      Then they pull out of MacWorld after they helped make Apple who they are, and start staging anouncements [i]on their own[/i]?

      Google offers Android to phone manufacturers, then releases Nexus One phones [i]in direrct competition with them[/i]?

      And Microsoft is different, [i]how[/i]?
      John Zern