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

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.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

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."

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