Microsoft unveils a new deeply social phone: KIN

Project Pink becomes KIN, a combination of hardware and software to make you and your phone experience more social.
Written by Joel Evans, Contributor
Microsoft has finally unveiled what has been known as "project Pink" for years. KIN, formerly known as Pink, was birthed from the acquisition of Danger and is specifically designed to "navigate your social life". It does this by combining both a socially aware phone, based on Windows Phone 7, and cloud service. This combination not only makes it effortless for you to capture and share your social moments, but also have them backed up for safe keeping and easy retrieval.


At launch there will be two KIN phones available: KIN ONE and KIN TWO. Both devices share the same interface, touch screen, slide-out keyboard, and LumiLED flash. However, the KIN ONE is compact and features a 5 megapixel camera, whereas the KIN TWO offers more memory, an 8 megapixel camera, and the ability to record 720p video.




The Interface itself has to be seen up-close for you to fully appreciate it. It actually looks fake at times and is effortless in its execution. That said, it's not for the business user, or technically even for someone of my age group. KIN Loop: The home screen is where the fun of the interface begins and it's called the KIN Loop. The Loop is always showing the latest status and happenings from the user's social world, including feeds, status updates, pictures, and more. This combination of events is occurring in the cloud and supports the ability to bring together feeds from Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, etc. all on the home screen. For someone like myself, it's a bit too much at once, and it reminds me more of MOTOBLUR, which is a feature I practically shut off when reviewing the Cliq. Of course, this is the information overload that the target market for the KIN lives in daily, so it does look like the perfect interface for them. KIN Spot: This is a dedicated area throughout the phone's interface that lets the user simply drag in elements of a web page, photo, and just about anything else and instantly share it all with their friends via SMS, MMS, or e-mail. KIN Studio: I mentioned above that the cloud services is a big piece of this. That comes in the form of KIN Studio, which is your phone online. Everything that's created on the phone is stored and accessible in timeline form in KIN Studio. Texts, call history, photos, videos and contacts are available and browsable instantly. Music: The first Zune Phone We had talked about Windows Phone 7 featuring some Zune pieces, but KIN really offers up the Zune experience. Using Zune software on a PC, customers can listen to songs from the Zune Marketplace on the KIN, and overall treat their KIN like a Zune. Web browsing Not much information is available on the browser, other than it's based more on the Zune's Web browser and features a rich experience, local and full web search provided by Bing, and an RSS feed reader. As I mentioned above, KIN has been years in the making and Microsoft spent thousands of hours interviewing its target market for KIN: tweens through late 20s. I have an email out to a product manager that I know on the program to see what the focus group's feeling is on the now officially announced KIN. I'm sure that they've been playing with the final device for some time now, and I can't believe that they have been able to keep this whole thing under wraps. First Impressions I not only had a chance to play with KIN ONE and KIN TWO at Mobius last Fall, but also worked on "project Pink" as a consultant over a year ago, advising on the overall content of KIN.com. However, at the time I was not treated to the specifics of the product, nor the name, so I was really just helping Microsoft design its web experience. That said, I'll be providing my full impressions in a later post. In general, KIN is not targeted at someone like myself, but there's a lot to love regardless. For example, the concepts introduced by KIN are definitely something I would like in my daily world. The ability to navigate events of my life in an online manner, using a timeline, and then having them instantly available is pretty close to my content nirvana. Right now I can do something like that using iPhoto, but I have to spawn a variety of other applications to bring the experience closer to something like KIN Studio. I'm expecting to get some hands-on time with the latest build in the coming weeks, but based on what I saw in the webcast today, the speed of the device and interface overall has improved substantially, and almost looks like it's fake because it's that good. KIN came together through a partnership between Microsoft, Sharp, Verizon Wireless, and Vodaphone. I share this because all along Microsoft said that they wouldn't make a phone. Technically, Sharp made it, so I guess the company can still say that they didn't make a phone and that there's no such thing as a Zune phone. To me, though, it's a Microsoft phone with some Zune pieces. By the way, contrary to what has been rumored, KIN is expected to be available in Verizon stores starting next month. And if you're wondering, I've cobbled together some quotes from the webcast to try to figure out where the KIN name came from:
"tight community of kindred spirits" "personifies true kinship" "the phone experience that connects what you love with the people you love"
UPDATE: Matt got some playtime with KIN and is posting up videos and photos on his post. --------- One more thing (OFF TOPIC): a friend (we rode an elephant together) at Microsoft was center stage today: Derek Snyder, Senior Product Manager for KIN team. I've posted a quick pic below--hats off to Derek for a solid presentation of something years in the making.
UPDATE: My friend, Judie Lipsett at GearDiary not only posted her own thoughts but also sent me pictures of Derek and I on the elephant ride. I've posted one below.
Editorial standards