Microsoft's 'Kin' Smartphones Let You Get Social

 
 
By Nicholas Kolakowski  |  Posted 2010-04-12
 
 
 

Microsoft unveiled Kin One and Kin Two, two smartphones targeted at a younger demographic, during several high-profile presentations in San Francisco and New York on April 12. The devices, which seem to be the culmination of the long-rumored "Project Pink," incorporate cameras, touch screens and sliding QWERTY keyboards to create what is supposedly a social-networking-optimized experience for the teenage set.

The smaller Kin One includes a "compact keyboard for one-handed texting," according to a Website, Kin.com, which went live a few minutes before the San Francisco presentation. In addition, the device includes a touch screen, a 5.0-megapixel camera with flash capable of shooting SD video, a mono speaker tuned for speakerphone and 4GB of memory. Imagine a slider smartphone along the lines of the Palm Pre, but smaller.

The larger Kim Two has a form-factor reminiscent of the T-Mobile Sidekick, with a sliding QWERTY keyboard, an 8.0-megapixel camera capable of shooting HD video, stereo speakers and 8GB of memory. Both the Kin One and Kin Two include a media player powered by Zune.

Verizon will be the exclusive carrier for both the Kin One and Kin Two, which will supposedly arrive at an as-yet-unannounced point in May.

The Kin's target demographic is what Robbie Bach, president of Microsoft's Entertainment & Devices Division, took the San Francisco stage to term "the sharing generation" for whom "social life is their priority No. 1." The phones' functionality is apparently geared toward delivering a high-level of content sharing, including photos. Microsoft is also pushing the devices as ideal for anyone using their phones to shoot a high amount of video and images.

"As we were working on Windows Phone 7, we said we had an opportunity to pursue a different possible audience," Bach said, adding that the Kin was "a deeply social phone that will give [that demographic] what they want."

The Kin smartphones could very well be the realization of the "Project Pink" rumors that have drifted for months. Although never officially confirmed by Microsoft, Project Pink was sighted occasionally in documents and images purportedly leaked by Redmond; in September 2009, rumors abounded that two smartphones, code-named Turtle and Pure, were being developed in conjunction with Danger, a company that Microsoft acquired in 2009 and integrated into its PMX (Premium Mobile Experiences) team, a division of its MCB (Mobile Communications Business).

In early March, Gizmodo published what it said were leaked images of the "Pure" phone, which bears a distinct resemblance to the Kin Two.

While Microsoft is likely hoping that the smartphones will replicate the initial success of the Sidekick flip-screen phone, the Kin One and Kin Two may end up being a sideshow to the larger Windows Phone 7 rollout.

Desirous to regain smartphone market share in the face of substantial competition from the likes of Apple's iPhone and Google Android, Microsoft unveiled a new mobile phone operating system, Windows Phone 7, during the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in February. Devices running Windows Phone 7, which will supposedly be released in time for the 2010 holiday season, aggregate Web content and mobile applications into subject-specific "hubs" such as "People" and "Games."

According to research firm comScore, Microsoft occupied 15.1 percent of the smartphone OS market in the three-month period ending in February 2009, down from 19.1 percent the quarter before. By contrast, Research In Motion held 42.1 percent of the market, followed by Apple with 25.4 percent, and Google Android with 9 percent.

Bach described the upcoming Windows Phone 7 devices as "a multipurpose phone for a larger audience," even as the Kin devices target the social-networking set. 

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