Microsoft has dabbled in social networking, but most of its efforts have resided in the desktop and online, where it attempts to take on Google in search and advertising. Perhaps that's why it's so surprising that Microsoft is attempting to appeal to social networking fans with the Microsoft Kin One and Microsoft Kin Two.
The devices, which will be available on Verizon Wireless' network in May, attempt to bridge the gap between the Web and mobile phones. But whether or not they actually do this successfully remains to be seen.
As excited as some folks are for the Microsoft Kin smartphones, others are scratching their heads. Both the Microsoft Kin One and the Kin Two are lacking in several areas that should limit their appeal to the wider consumer market.
Considering there are so many other devices that consumers can choose from, it's debatable just how much they will appeal to the average person. A solid argument can be made that Microsoft Kin devices are ill-fated in a market where innovation and uniqueness are coveted above all else.
But simply saying that isn't doing either device justice. That's why it's time to take a look at why 10 important features missing from the Kin phones could mean trouble for Microsoft once they're released.
1. Carrier ubiquity
According to Microsoft, the Kin One and Kin Two will be available only on Verizon Wireless' network in the United States and Vodafone's network in the U.K. That's a problem. Although Apple has done a good job working with just one carrier, it's the exception in the mobile market. For any other company, providing phones on as many carriers as possible is always the best strategy. After all, limiting a target market for the sake of a business deal just isn't smart.
2. Lack of uniqueness
What makes the Kin unique? The device features a multitouch display, a slide-out physical keyboard and a mobile operating system that lacks several key features that most consumers want. To be successful in the increasingly competitive mobile marketplace, companies need to develop phones that are unique. Apple's iPhone is unique. Even Google's Android platform is unique. Unfortunately for Microsoft and Sharp, the devices' designer, there's nothing so unique about the Kin phones that would make users want to pick them over anything else.
3. Flash, anyone?
Apple has been getting hit hard by tech pundits and critics who say that its devices should support Adobe's Flash standard. But if Apple gets that treatment, so should Microsoft. Neither of the Kin phones will support Flash (or Microsoft's own Silverlight, for that matter). Considering the device lacks an app store, that means that the vast majority of videos and games currently available on the Web will not be accessible from the Kin. Like Apple, Microsoft says that isn't a big deal, but we all know it is. And it's a major omission.
4. It's game-less
Part of the value of a next-gen mobile device is its ability to play games. And since Microsoft is marketing the Kin phones as social networking devices, it would only seem to make sense that the devices would boast social games for users to play with each other. Think again. According to Microsoft, Kin phones will not support games. Given the success of gaming on the iPhone, it will be extremely hard for Microsoft to justify that decision.