Microsoft released a couple of phones on Monday, Kin 1 and Kin 2, supposedly aimed at teens. Kin 1 is shaped like a hockey puck. Kin 2 looks more like a conventional smart phone (but it's not). The only thing these phones appear to have going for them is a nice keyboard. The Kin 1 has an awkward shape. The shared interface is ugly and confusing and as of now (the release announcement), they have no SDK for building additional Apps. It connects to Facebook and MySpace (MySpace? Really?!) and of course connects to Zune music services, but it doesn't take advantage of the Windows 7 Mobile interface, which I thought was pretty nice.
I realize that Microsoft wasn't looking at middle aged men when they designed this phone, but I don't see young people going ga-ga over an ugly phone unless they price it so low that teens go for the bargain. Although part of me wonders if they could even give the Kin 1 away.
Did They Really Think This Through?
We all know Microsoft is slow and awkward, but let's take a jaundiced view of the mobile phone market, shall we? It's crowded. There's lots of nice texting phones with touch screens out there. My son uses a nifty Samsung Impression and it does way more if he wanted it to. We don't need another phone added onto the pile, and unless it really had something incredible to offer, what is the point? Like everything Microsoft tries these days--and you have to give them credit for hanging in don't you?--they just seem to miss the mark. The Kin is no different.
Where Did They Come Up With This?
I'm not clear why they released a phone that doesn't run their Windows Mobile operating system. It doesn't make sense. It looks nice. Has great services that should appeal to young people including the Zune music service (different from the Zune MP3 device) and the XBox service. It has a clean interface and a whole applications ecosystem. Why not simply use that?
No, instead they did the classic corporate overthinking and tried to anticipate what a teen would want, but like many such ventures organized by adults, they missed the mark badly. Does anyone actually even use MySpace anymore besides musicians? I have two teens at home. The older one used it 5 years ago. The younger one so far as I know doesn't even know it exists. It seems clear they never talked to a young person, but instead created something they though young people would like (and failed miserably).
It's getting to the point where I'm feeling sorry for Microsoft. They make one pathetic attempt after another to come up with something that will stick, but the sorriest part of this whole episode is that Microsoft is running away from its own brand. If you go to the Kin web site , you won't find any Microsoft references, except in the teeny tiny foot note at the bottom of each page. Even Microsoft recognizes that they are uncool and this phone, unfortunately for them, is not going to change that perception.
Photo by abulhussain on Flickr. Used under the Creative Commons License.
You have teenage kids, so you must be an adult. Yet you make the same error the you claim Microsoft is making: stating you know what kids want (or implying that you do because you predict failure.) Which is it?
Isn't it enough to be glad to see them trying different formats and markets? Shouldn't we let the teens decide? I don't know about myspace except it is widely known for music. Just because your sample of two teens doesn't use it doesn't mean it isn't popular.
I certainly would hate this phone but I'm old (>30) but I've given up on trying to see what my kids would like. Who'd figure Farmville would be so popular. Or twitter.
I don't know this but I'd think Microsoft, and their partners Sharp and Verizon, did extensive market research on what kids want, including focus groups and showing prototypes to kids. That is standard practice. Yes it doesn't always work but it does increase the chances of success.
I admitted in my post I wasn't the target market, but I'm still not clear why you create an entirely new phone for one target market when you're not even in the phone business. Why not get them used to using Windows 7 Mobile. The whole strategy and implementation doesn't make sense to me. You could be right that I could be wrong (it wouldn't be the first time), but I think this is an ill conceived product.
With all the money they have to pour into research, focus groups, testing and development, do you honestly think Microsoft would release this phone if it didn't believe there was a market for it? Your narrow-sighted view is everything that is wrong with internet pundits. You clearly have an opinion but you have not thought through you argument. Microsoft released this phone BECAUSE of WinMo7. They know they'll continue to lose ground in the late teens/early 20's market segment because of the iPhone and Android, and they clearly understand there's no point in trying to market WinMo7 to young adults. There actually is a huge segment of the market longing for something other than the single form-factor that Apple spits out. Now, I'm not the target, AND I'm an iPhone user, so if ever an opinion could be slated, it would be mine. But I think the folks in Redmond might just be crazy like a fox. It makes complete logical sense for them to jump into a totally different pool than the iPhone. And they're not going to catch Apple or Android in the apps game, so instead they're going for a segment of the market both have utterly ignored. This phone is not for the smartphone power users, like, presumably, yourself. But it is for a growing market of people who realize there is more out there than the iPhone, or don't want the full capacity of a smart phone. Think about it before you go about egregiously pontificating about the ills of Microsoft.
Well, we'll see. As I say, I believe it's ill conceived, and there's little room for it in a cell phone market that's already crowded. I actually did think about it before I wrote it, believe it or not. I have been watching Microsoft and the cell phone market for years. I freely admit I could be wrong, but I do have a body of work and the background and experience to speak intelligently about these subjects. I think the phone lacks both form (it's ugly) and function (the interface is a mess). Mine is just one opinion, but before *you* criticize me and lump me in with all the internet pundits you seem to have a problem with, understand that I have some perspective on this.
You don't see anything wrong with your premise that because Microsoft has so much money, does so much research, and uses focus groups that these two products are inherently going to find traction in the market? That doesn't make any sense to me. Even with all that at their disposal, MS has effectively squandered their brand (from which they now try to run away) by releasing one bad product after another. MS's hulking, by committee method does not really represent the smart deployment of assets you imagine it to. I don't think it is going out on a limb at all for this author to claim Microsoft doesn't understand certain market segments and that these two really uninspired phones reveal the depth of their problem. I think that part of why these phones are so depressing to even look at it, is that they further represents a real decline for a company that can, and should, come up with so much more. MS is clearly lacking vision. Your claim that they've struck gold by hitting a segment where they don't have to compete with Apple or Google ignores the author's point that there are plenty of phones that already do just that. Making low end phones that no one really wants is not some radical paradigm shift. I personally can't see how Kin will add to either mindshare or significant marketshare.
No apps. No calender. No IM. A children's (Kinder) phone. Parents should avoid getting their kids a KIN, as every photo taken gets uploaded, using up massive amounts of data.
Windows Phone 7 = FAIL
Just like KIN, WP7 will be a walled garden of Microsoft products and services, with a closed app store complete with approval process. Apple has already taken that space. There's no room for a copy that is vastly inferior to iPhone. WP7 is an immature platform with incomplete APIs that won't be capable of complex apps. That's why you won't find alternate browsers coming to WP7. The media/audio editing apps that work natively in iPhone won't work in Microsoft's WP7 Silverlight. We can see already that Microsoft will fail in mobile. Don't waste your time with it.
I don't know any young perople, whether in the 10-15 group, or 15-21, that would gravitate towards anything that did not reek of "cool". Maybe these devices have hundreds of customizable skins, or something visibly customizable, but I don't see it in the pictures. I suppose it comes down to how easy it is to IM, and how interactive people find the social media linkages, but integrating third party technologies is not something MS has ever tried to be good at.
I agree, I don't see the kin being anything but landfill fodder.
Thanks for the comment. I think Microsoft and Verizon have to come in very low in terms of price for this phone if they have any chance at all of selling in large numbers, but as Seldon said, as hard as they try, they simply don't have a cool factor and that will be the downfall of a phone aimed at teens.