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Microsoft's next smartphone effort: Yes, we Kin?

Yesterday, Microsoft announced its latest venture in the smartphone business.

No, not the Windows Phone 7 Series project it launched in February. The Redmond, Wash., software company's new Kin series of smartphones will arrive in Verizon Wireless stores in the next month, not the end of this year.

kin_phones.jpg

Its Kin gadgets build on Microsoft's 2008 acquisition of Danger Inc., the company behind T-Mobile's line of Sidekick phones.

Regular readers may recall the Sidekick's dishonorable appearance in this space as an example of "cloud computing" gone catastrophically wrong. Last year, a server meltdown left Sidekick users watching their schedules and contacts lists vanish before a quasi-heroic effort allowed a recovery of some of that data.

Understandably, Microsoft has ditched the Sidekick branding in introducing Kin. (It writes that word in all caps, a habit I'll decline until somebody convinces me "Kin" is an abbreviation for anything.) But the looks of its new hardware owe a fair amount to that prior venture. So does its announced manufacturing partner, Sharp, which also built Sidekick phones for T-Mobile.

Microsoft will ship two Kin models: Its Kin Two will include a slide-out keyboard below a landscape-mode screen, much like the Sidekick, while the Kin One will feature a pull-down keyboard that looks more like Palm's Pre smartphone. The former will feature an eight-megapixel camera, and the latter will ship with a 5-MP camera. Microsoft will bundle each with software compatible with its Zune media players' music and video store.

Microsoft is throwing in an extra set of social-media applications on each device. One program, the Kin Loop, echoes HTC's Sense interface and the Synergy feature of Palm's webOS by presenting updates that friends have posted to such social sites as Facebook and Twitter on the phone's home screen. A second, the Kin Spot, aims to simplify sharing bits of information with pals by letting you drag pictures, video clips, Web pages, text messages and other snippets to one icon on the screen.

Verizon hasn't revealed prices, service costs or an exact ship date yet.

From first-hand writeups such as this one from Ars Technica and another from Wired, the Kin seems like it could be a decent, entry-level smartphone. But it apparently shares very little code with the project Microsoft has already suggested is its top priority, Win Phone 7 -- and which won't run programs written for other Microsoft mobile platforms.

Microsoft will try to pitch the Kin as a simpler, cheaper, alternative to other smartphones. But recent history suggests that sort of subtlety can get lost on customers fixated on better-known options that can run more applications.

Does this new offering from Microsoft look appealing to you, or do you think it only makes sense from inside certain buildings on Microsoft's Redmond, Wash., campus? Share your reasoning in the comments.

By Rob Pegoraro  |  April 13, 2010; 9:12 AM ET
Categories:  Gadgets , Mobile , Windows  
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Comments

In the age of the Apple iPhone and the Blackberry Storm, phones with a slideout keyboard look hopelessly old fashioned. I don't think this is going anywhere.

Posted by: w_schulz1 | April 13, 2010 10:03 AM | Report abuse

No support for apps and no compatibility with Microsoft's current Windows phones or their next latest and greatest attempt to clone the iPhone. This phone is not going anywhere.

Posted by: jcorwin | April 13, 2010 11:28 AM | Report abuse

" until somebody convinces me "Kin" is an abbreviation for anything."

Not an abbreviation -= an acronym. Like NATO. Each letter stands for a word.

Posted by: GaryEMasters | April 13, 2010 11:52 AM | Report abuse

The future will not even have a keyboard, unless it is "virtual" and projected.

The price is waiting for a true voice operated system with no problems with ambient noise or accents. That will make phones tiny, except for the screen which may be projected into the eye. Or plugged into the brain.

Cyberman!!

Posted by: GaryEMasters | April 13, 2010 11:55 AM | Report abuse

It's "KIN".....pronounced "Zune."

Posted by: dsk36 | April 13, 2010 12:13 PM | Report abuse

@w_schultz1 the Droid has demonstrated that a slideout keyboard is still a viable option. Of course there is nothing viable about this particular phone.

Posted by: slar | April 13, 2010 1:07 PM | Report abuse

Microsoft equals software. They made a conscious decision to grab market share early in the home computer history. Reminds me of VHS tape.

Posted by: ripper368 | April 13, 2010 1:30 PM | Report abuse

@GaryEMasters:
I'm sure Rob is aware of the difference between an abbreviation and an acronym. But to your point: WHAT words, exactly, does "Kin" stand for? Until that is answered, Rob's point is well taken.

Posted by: 54Stratocaster | April 13, 2010 9:14 PM | Report abuse

KIN = Kill iPhone Now ???

Posted by: spm1 | April 14, 2010 2:47 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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