Mourning the Death of KIN: Some Thoughts

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For those of you mourning the death of the KIN, there’s a place where you can go to light a “virtual candle” to share your sentiments about the social-friendly phone called RIP KIN. Yes, someone actually made a website to mourn the KIN. As the site points out, KIN’s life was a short one. It went on sale on May 13 of this year, and was killed just 48 days later, which is pretty astounding if you think about it. KIN may take the prize as the shortest lifespan of a new cell phone platform. Sales must have been truly abysmal.

More seriously, I have some thoughts about the discontinuation of the KIN. In several ways the KIN was fatally flawed from day one. Here’s a point-by-point:

1. It was too late. The KIN was 18 months in development since Microsoft’s acquisition of Danger. In May of 2010, social people don’t want a social phone, they want a phone that can do a lot (like run third party apps, multitask, etc) AND be social. Each carrier now has a plethora of terrific smartphone choices.

2. The data plan was killer. The KIN was intended for those that weren’t ready for a smartphone, such as teenagers. But why is it that teenagers aren’t ready for a smartphone? Is it because the interface of Android/iPhone/BlackBerry/WebOS is too complex? No. It’s because the data plans are too expensive and either they or their parents aren’t willing to pay the added fee each month. The KIN should have had a KIN-friendly data plan that was half the price of what it was.

3. The marketing wasn’t there. Product awareness is very important. My girlfriend, who still uses a feature phone (PLEASE help me convince her otherwise! =D ), enjoyed using the KIN after I handed her a test unit. But before me showing it to her (this was well into June) she was unaware of its existence. I can count the number of KIN TV ads I saw on one hand. There was just not enough product awareness for the KIN to have been popular. Or known.

4. The software missed the mark. I liked the metro-inspired interface of the KIN, but the rest just felt weak. I realize that I’m not the target customer for the KIN, but I can at least appreciate a good experience. The interface was slow, the screen resolution was intolerably low, and the concept of “the spot” was too ambitious for most people.

5. Microsoft called it a Windows Phone. Agh! It was enough for Microsoft to go out on a limb (big time) with the KIN to attempt to sell a phone to a market that potentially didn’t exist, but they didn’t need to connect it to the Windows Phone brand! They thought that using the Windows Phone branding would help the KIN, when actually, it may have tarnished the upcoming Windows Phone 7 brand. Also, is it really a Windows Phone when it doesn’t load third party apps? What other Microsoft Windows product doesn’t load third party apps? There are none.

In the end Microsoft took a huge bet and lost, all in an effort to create a new cashflow-generating asset. In an upcoming article we’ll explore how the KIN’s demise may affect Windows Phone 7.

Thanks for the tip, sergio.

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About The Author
Brandon Miniman
Brandon is a graduate from the Villanova School of Business, located near Philadelphia, PA. He's been a technology writer since 2002, and, in 2005, became Editor-in-Chief of Pocketnow, a then Windows Mobile-focused website. He has since helped to transition Pocketnow into a top-tier smartphone and tablet publication. He's so obsessed with technology that he once entered a candle store and asked if they had a "new electronics" scent. They didn't.