Thursday, July 1, 2010

Microsoft Kills KIN? My take on Microsoft’s new strategy

Yesterday, a number of people found out that Microsoft was essentially “killing” the KIN in favor of moving the team to the Windows Phone development team. Here’s the official statement:

"We have made the decision to focus on our Windows Phone 7 launch and we will not ship KIN in Europe this fall as planned. 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. We will continue to work with Verizon in the U.S. to sell current KIN phones."

While I at first was a bit skeptical about this decision from Microsoft, it ultimately may be a very good move on their part. First, let’s get a couple of things straight. The press statement in no way suggests that Microsoft will be completely axing the KIN, only that development for the KIN is being moved to Windows Phone and that they will not continue their plans to ship in Europe. If you live in Europe, as some of my readers may, you may be disappointed by this news. However, if you currently own a KIN, I don’t think Microsoft will leave you in the water. “We will continue to work with Verizon in the U.S. to sell current KIN phones.” Exactly. Further, as of yesterday, it still seems like Microsoft will offer an update to the KIN this summer.


Recall that the KIN first shipped in April of this year. It received mixed reviews, though for the most part I think some reviewers simply forgot who the target market was. Further, I think Verizon forgot who the target market was as well. Selling a half-featured phone (this isn’t a knock to the KIN) to teenagers and young adults with a full-featured data plan with costs added was not the best way to get these things rolling. I was also a bit skeptical about the marketing of the phone as well. In the TV promos, it seemed like the phone was better suited for those in their 20’s (early, mid, late). In no way could I have every imagined the phone to be designed for teens, at least from the commercials. In fact, with some of the story lines of the commercials, I don’t think parents would even think the KIN was suitable for their kid. After all, who in their right mind is going to let their teen go on a road trip to find their “social friends.” There’s already too many freaky stories about this in the news.


As horrible as the marketing and data plans are/were, I still can’t fully rationalize the “500 sold” number that has been sprouting up on various websites. We don’t know the real numbers yet, but I can almost guarantee Microsoft sold far more than 500 units, otherwise, they would probably have dropped the KIN altogether (no further support, money back, no further product, nothing). Just my thoughts here though. In Verizon’s defense, they did significantly lower the initial purchase price of the phones; however, the monthly data plan cost still vastly outweighs the initial purchase costs of these devices (as with any smartphone device, for that matter.)


With that aside, I think the move to drop the KIN is a smart one, and after dwelling on it for about a day, I can say Microsoft did the right thing in dropping the KIN. This means that more development will go into Windows Phone; hopefully implementing some of the nicer features of the KIN. There has been a bit of confusion over how many Mobile device OSes Microsoft was implementing, now it just got a little less confusing. Thank you, Microsoft!


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