Halloween might be over, but at least one thing looks like it's coming back from the dead: Microsoft's much-derided Kin phones, which met an ignoble demise earlier this year after several weeks of poor sales. If reports prove accurate, Verizon plans to sell the Kin One and Kin Two as stripped-down "feature phones," possibly to clear any excessive stocks.
Microsoft originally hoped the Kin One and Kin Two would become "must-have" devices for teenagers and young adults obsessed with social networking. The phones offered a constant stream of updates, and allowed users to seamlessly upload photos and data to the cloud.
Unfortunately, the phones failed to sell. "Microsoft has made the decision to focus on the Windows Phone 7 launch and will not ship Kin in Europe this fall as planned," read a June 30 statement from the company. "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."
But Verizon may be determined to clear out its remaining stock of Kin devices-at least according to the carrier's purported fourth-quarter 2010 roadmap, supposedly leaked to the blog PPCGeeks by "a friend from Verizon."
The Kin reappearance was then confirmed by other blogs, including Engadget. Kin v2.0 will apparently lack certain data-heavy features such as Loop, which fed those constant social-networking updates.
"Enhanced feature phones with impressive hardware not found on other feature phones," reads Verizon's roadmap document. "Each device has a touch-screen and a full QWERTY keyboard, along with a high-end camera and plenty of internal memory to store photos and videos."
Microsoft originally backed the Kin with a massive marketing push, but kept silent on the number of devices sold during the initial run. Sites such as Pocketnow.com have pointed out that there were only 8,810 "monthly active users" of the Kin Facebook application, which can only be used by an actual Kin phone.
Pundits generally laid blame for the Kin initiative's demise on Verizon's monthly data plans-too high-cost for teenagers-and failure to define the phones' value proposition over competing devices.
According to one analyst, Kin's problems began with Microsoft's 2008 acquisition of Danger Inc., which created the Sidekick mobile platform. Soon afterward, rumors spread that Microsoft and Danger teams were collaborating on "Project Pink," a pair of branded social-collaboration phones. But the need to integrate Danger's assets with Microsoft's platform delayed and eventually doomed the whole endeavor.
"The Kin was a mistake from Day One," Rob Enderle, principal analyst of the Enderle Group, wrote in an email to eWEEK following the Kin's original death. "The extra time they took to convert the Kin from the Sidekick platform to Windows CE made it about a year-and-a-half late to market, and the merger likely added another year-and-a-half. That's 1.5 to 3 years late depending on when you start the clock."
A shakeup within Microsoft's Entertainment & Devices Division, which saw the departures of two top executives, may have further doomed the Kin as it prepared for the initial launch.
But now, like the chainsaw-bearing creature in a horror film, the Kin has managed to crawl back from its grave. It could be a case of Verizon trying to clear out excess stock, or trying to leverage consumer interest in Microsoft devices following the launch of Windows Phone 7. Speaking of which, Microsoft doubtlessly hopes its new phone platform sells better than the last one.