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.