Microsoft's Kin Phones on Presale May 6, Say Rumors

By Nicholas Kolakowski  |  Posted 2010-05-03

Microsoft's upcoming Kin One and Kin Two phones will be made available for presale May 6, with "launches to all channels on May 13," according to a purported internal report from Verizon. The phones are targeted at a younger demographic, with applications and hardware designed for optimized social networking.

Screenshots of that report, and the paragraph with the presale and launch-to-channels dates, were posted on Slashphone on May 2 before being circulated on tech blogs such as Engadget.

Microsoft declined to confirm those specific dates.

"KIN will be available exclusively from Verizon Wireless in the United States beginning in May," a Microsoft spokesperson wrote in a May 3 e-mail to eWEEK. "KIN will be available from Vodafone later this year in Germany, Italy, Spain, and the UK."

Microsoft first unveiled the Kin One and Kin Two phones during an April 12 presentation in San Francisco, where Robbie Bach, president of Microsoft's Entertainment & Devices Division, told the audience that the devices' target demographic was "the sharing generation" for whom "social life is their priority No. 1."

To that end, the Kin One features a sliding form factor reminiscent of the Palm Pre, with a physical QWERTY keyboard and a touch screen, as well as a 5.0-megapixel camera capable of shooting SD video. The Kin Two also features a sliding QWERTY keyboard and touch screen, while the physically longer form factor accommodates an 8.0-megapixel camera and stereo speakers. The phones lack Flash support for the browser, a memory card slot, instant messaging and games-but Microsoft is nonetheless betting that users will want to spend their majority of time with the device snapping images and posting their latest missives to Facebook and other social networking sites.

According to some analysts, the Kin One and Kin Two could prove a hit if they manage to capture the attentions of that demographic. The other question, of course, is also how the Kin line will reflect on Microsoft's larger mobile offering, the upcoming Windows Phone 7.

"I would argue that Kin may be the more important product of the two OS offerings," Jack Gold, principal analyst of J. Gold Associates, wrote in an April 13 research note. "Kin is a bigger gamble, whereby Microsoft is trying to define a new market niche. If it catches on, Kin could usher in a new class of -Facebook in Your Pocket' devices, just like the iPhone created a class of devices for Internet-centric users."

But Gold also feels that several conditions stand between the Kin and marketplace victory.

"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," Gold wrote. "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?"

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