Microsoft formally announced that its Kin One and Kin Two phones would be available for online preorder starting May 6, with an in-store rollout to follow May 13, confirming rumors from earlier in the week. Microsoft hopes that the devices, which emphasize social-networking functionality in both their hardware and applications, will prove a hit with a younger demographic. The Kin phones, along with the upcoming Windows Phone 7, are broadly seen as Microsoft's attempt at reversing its declining fortunes in the smartphone operating space, where it faces fierce competition from Google Android, Apple iPhone and other platforms.
Microsoft formally announced that its upcoming Kin One and
Kin Two phones will be available online for preorder starting May 6, with a
Verizon in-store rollout to follow on May 13. That comes days after a leaked
internal report from Verizon suggested those dates for the launch.
The Kin One will retail for $49.99, after $100 mail-in rebate,
and the Kin Two for $99.99. The phones have been geared toward a younger
demographic presumably enamored of social networking, with applications and
hardware designed to facilitate posting about life's latest quirks. With its
round shape, sliding QWERTY keyboard and touch screen, the Kin One is heavily
reminiscent of the Palm Pre; meanwhile, the Kin Two more resembles a
traditional "candybar" phone, also with a retracting keyboard. The Kin One and
Kin Two include 5.0-megapixel and 8.0-megapixel cameras, respectively.
While Microsoft spokespeople have always confirmed that the
phones would make an appearance in early May, a leaked screenshot of a Verizon
internal report-first posted on Slashphone
on May 2, and then circulated on tech blogs such as Engadget-suggested the May
6 and May 13 dates. Verizon is the exclusive carrier of the Kin phones in the
United States, while Vodafone will take over those duties when the devices hit
the market in Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom later in 2010.
Microsoft first unveiled the devices during an April 12
presentation in San Francisco, where Robbie Bach, president of Microsoft's
Entertainment & Devices Division, told the audience that "the sharing
generation" was the Kin's target demographic. The company likely hopes that the
combination of Kin and the upcoming Windows Phone 7 will allow it to reverse
its declining fortunes in the smartphone space.
While Kin has a chance to succeed if it only captures a
relatively small portion of that market, a number of additional factors are
also in play.
"Success will depend on how well Studio and Windows Live
support integrate with the phone, and since only Microsoft can deploy a new
service to the device, how well it does so is critical," Jack Gold, principal
analyst of J. Gold Associates, wrote in an April 13 research note. "Success
will also depend on what types of service plans are available, how they're
priced and how good the service is (i.e., the AT&T/iPhone fiasco would be a
killer for Kin). Finally, what specialized services will the carriers offer to try
and garner some of the potential cloud revenue?"
Nicholas Kolakowski is a staff editor at eWEEK, covering Microsoft and other companies in the enterprise space, as well as evolving technology such as tablet PCs. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, Playboy, WebMD, AARP the Magazine, AutoWeek, Washington City Paper, Trader Monthly, and Private Air. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.