Microsoft's Kin smartphone: No, it kin't
Less than two months after they showed up in stores amid a burst of hype over their social-media capabilities, Microsoft's Kin smartphones have roamed into a dead zone. The company is scrapping the entire project, although Verizon Wireless will keep selling the Kin One and Kin Two models.
(Neither Microsoft nor Verizon's PR departments sent me a Kin to try out until after its debut, after which I kept finding more relevant things to review. In retrospect, I suppose they did me a favor.)
An Engadget post provides more details on the Kin's passing. Joshua Topolsky writes that the Kin, once seen as a Web-savvy descendant of T-Mobile's Sidekick phones, was delayed 18 months after Microsoft management decided to rewrite its software on its Windows CE code base.
Even without knowing that history, I thought the Kin made little sense for Microsoft. Years after it had become obvious that the iPhone and Google's Android operating system were herding Windows Mobile to extinction -- mere months after it had publicly committed to a different platform, its upcoming Windows Phone 7 -- why would Microsoft split its efforts on two incompatible systems?
Oh, but it's worse than that. This debacle dates to 2008, when Microsoft spent a reported $500 million buying Sidekick developers Danger Inc. That expenditure not only yielded the ill-fated Kin, it also put Microsoft in a position to botch the Sidekick's server infrastructure so thoroughly that it nearly wiped out all the stored data of Sidekick users last year.
One thing Microsoft didn't pick up in the doomed Danger acquisition, however, was company co-founder Andy Rubin, who by then was busy developing Android for Google.
Killing Kin so quickly suggests that Microsoft's management finally realizes the mess it's in. (Kin developers who haven't already fled elsewhere will now work on Windows Phone 7.) But in the process, Microsoft has put a few dents in its own credibility. The next time it cues up its marketing machinery to boast that it's reinvented some category of gadget, people can and should remember how quickly this one cratered.
If anyone would like to say a few words about the deceased, you may now step forward in the comments.
July 1, 2010; 11:02 AM ET
Categories: Gadgets , Mobile , Windows
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