This must be music to the ears of rivals Apple and Google. Launched in April and dead by June, the Kin was targeted at 15 to 30 year olds. The two Kin models - One and Two - were supposed to tap into new mobile social networking behaviours and Verizon held the exclusive right on sales. Yet those sales are said to have numbered less than 10,000. Compare this to the iPhone 4 that shifted 1.7 million units in its first three days on the market.
What made Microsoft think Kin would work was the social media aggregater they called Loop. The company also believed it had two strong selling points in the cloud storage service Kin Studio, and Spot, the contact storage feature.
Microsoft spent two years developing Kin yet it did not have instant messaging, app downloads, photos and video sharing when using Twitter, or even a pre-installed calendar, text correction or prediction options. Kin was missing not only some basic social networking functions, but also those associated with everyday mobile technology. And, when it did start advertising the device Microsoft was criticised for running ads that were overtly sexual.
Kin was set to be the predecessor to the Windows Phone 7 due to launch in October this year. According to Greg Sullivan, senior product manager in Microsoft's mobile communications unit, Kin's capabilities will not be lost, but will be merged with Windows Phone 7.
Perhaps Microsoft deserves credit for its persistence. The not-so-popular Bing aside, Microsoft is continually upgrading its products including Windows 7 and Office 2010, but as it found with Kin, connecting everywhere and anywhere may be ‘cool', but signing off at the end of a message with ‘Sent from Microsoft Kin' is not.
- Microsoft spent two years developing Kin, yet it did not have instant messaging and a host of common application downloads.
- Kin's capabilities will now be bound into Windows Phone 7, due to launch in October 2010.
- The Kin memorial site at KinRIP.com has photos of the phones, as well as a place to leave testimonials and light a virtual candle.
Brand health diagnosis
In the rush to be an apostle of Apple, it's fashionable to predict the end of days for Microsoft. Since the dotcom boom when Microsoft missed the rise of the internet, it's been portrayed as the ‘me-too' player, trailing clued-in and youth savvy companies such as Apple and Google.
Nevermind that Microsoft made US$20 billion profit from $60 billion in sales last year, more than both Apple and Google combined.
Microsoft launches dozens of products every year - some will succeed, some will fail. Kin failed, but Microsoft should learn from it, as it has with the failures of Internet Explorer v1.0, Windows Vista, or the original XBox.
What is more intriguing is not that it failed (even Apple has Apple TV, and Google has Wave and Buzz to its recent shame), but that it was willing to concede defeat so quickly. It may be a sign that Microsoft has learnt to act nimbly, is more willing to try unusual products, and to quickly admit mistakes.
Compare that to how Apple responded to its iPhone 4 hardware glitches: ‘our products are perfect, our customers are too stupid to hold them properly'. But truth is perception, and Microsoft has a long hard road ahead.
Kin sounded great on paper, combining the convenience of a handheld device with the world's passion for social media. This sweet spot included the trend towards a mobile-based internet and that 48 per cent of the world's netizens are now involved in social networks.
Add to the mix a slick curved design, BlackBerry-style keyboard and a slide-out screen.
Despite this, Microsoft withdrew Kin from the market just six weeks after launch due to three very fundamental failings.
Speed: The Kin's social media feed updated every 15 minutes, making the device far from a real-time social media experience. Think how many people could tag the photo or comment on the status update in that length of time? Seconds count in Twitter.
Apps: The lack of apps was a fatal mistake. The value of sleek and well engineered hardware matters less than ever, just ask the world's largest mobile phone makers as they battle Apple's vast iPhone ecosystem of apps.
Flash: Videos are a huge part of the world's social media ecosystem. Where would social media be without the sharing of silly viral videos?
This article was originally published in the 15 July 2010 issue of Media.