The Kins Demise

By Nicholas Kolakowski  |  Posted 2010-07-04 Print this article Print


A Microsoft spokesperson indicated to eWEEK that there would probably be no official comment from the company regarding the veracity of the Windows 8 slides.

But if Windows 8-whatever its final name-represents a big part of Microsoft's future, this week also saw the company having to dump one of its recent products in the dustbin of history. On June 30, Microsoft abruptly discontinued its Kin line of social-networking-focused phones, which had been targeted exclusively at the teenager and young-adult demographic.

Introduced May 13, the Kin One and Kin Two featured hardware and applications tailored to deliver a constant stream of updates from the user's social networks. The devices allowed for seamless uploading of photos and other data to the cloud, but they also lacked games, Flash support for the browser, and the ability to download third-party applications.

"Microsoft has made the decision to focus on the Windows Phone 7 launch and will not ship Kin in Europe this fall as planned," reads a June 30 statement from Microsoft. "Additionally, we are integrating our Kin team with the Windows Phone 7 team, incorporating valuable ideas and technologies from Kin into future Windows Phone releases. We will continue to work with Verizon in the U.S. to sell current Kin phones."

The Kin's demise may have relatively little effect on Microsoft's overall efforts in the mobile space. "I don't think the impact on Windows Phone 7 is all that meaningful," Charles Golvin, an analyst with Forrester, told eWEEK in a July 1 interview. "They were going to have three platforms running: Windows Mobile 6.5 to continue their focus in the enterprise, Phone 7 was going to be their primary focus and emphasis in the consumer market, and Kin was a separate platform."

Golvin added that the Kin's collateral damage to the Microsoft brand could be minimal. "Because they chose to brand Kin as a Windows phone, it's a question of how much of a foul taste will be left in people's mouths," he said. "But I think it's going to be relatively minor; mainstream consumers have a relatively short memory for this sort of thing."

A number of analysts believe the high cost of service plans was a major contributor to the Kin's death: ranging between $39.99 for 450 minutes to $69.99 for unlimited time, and paired with a monthly $29.99 for data, they may have proven too expensive for either cost-conscious parents or teenagers with limited independent income. According to unconfirmed rumors drifting around the Web, only 500 Kin phones have been sold since May. Microsoft's recent shakeup of its Entertainment and Devices Division may also have been partially responsible for Kin's death.

With Kin dead, Microsoft can focus solely on the Windows Phone 7 rollout. Seen by the company as a total reboot of its smartphone franchise, Windows Phone 7 condenses Web content and applications into a set of subject-specific "Hubs," such as "Games" or "Office."

"Microsoft did not do an adequate job of differentiating itself from the other vendors and defining Kin's value proposition," Jack Gold, principal analyst of J. Gold Associates, wrote in a July 1 email to eWEEK. "I think they now realize that Windows Phone 7 has to be a big success if they want to stay in the mobile game."

For anyone who collects dead tech, the Kin One and Kin Two are now available on for a penny... with a new service plan.

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.

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