Why Microsoft's Kin Phone Was Destined To Fail

Last Updated Jul 1, 2010 11:36 AM EDT

It's no surprise that Microsoft (MSFT) is killing off the Kin, its phone aimed at teens and young adults, less than two months after it debuted. Relying on Microsoft to manage your social life is like asking your goofy uncle what to wear on a date.

The Kin was priced like a smartphone, except it lacked that product's most important feature: apps. It was pretty crazy to think that teens and young adults were going to enjoy using a phone that couldn't be updated with cool new games or run apps for their favorite sites like Foursqaure and Pandora.

Instead Microsoft bet the farm on social media, running a series of Kin ads about ex-girlfriends and secret rock concerts. The entire phone was built around sharing photos, sending messages and integrating with sites like Facebook, Myspace and Twitter.

Unlike the iPhone or Android, however, the Kin offered no simple way for users to upload and sync their contacts from immensely popular services like Gmail and Yahoo (YHOO). So right out of the box a phone that was supposed to help users be social made it hard to play nice with others.

The Kin paid lip service to the current social media toolkit. You can add your Twitter account and have it displayed on the home screen to send and receive updates. But the functionality ends there. No retweets, no direct messaging, you can't even go from the feed to check out an individuals stream. An app would have worked way better.

The one saving grace of the Kin was a feature called The Studio. Everything you did on the phone, from text messages to contacts to video and photos was automatically uploaded into The Studio, essentially a little digital locker in the cloud.

As my colleague Erik Sherman wrote, it's better for Microsoft to try and fail now, when they still have the money to experiment. Word is that the Kin team is being rolled into a squad charged with putting together the Windows 7 phone, which will definitely include The Studio.

According to Endgadget, the Kin was delayed for over a year and a half by squabbling within Microsoft. Had it been released on time, it might have seemed fresh. By 2010, it was overpriced, lacking features, and decidedly uncool.

Image from Flickr user Butterbits Related Links

  • Ben Popper

    Ben Popper writes at the intersection of culture and technology. His work has been published in the NY Times, Washington Post, Fast Company, Rolling Stone, The Atlantic and many others. He lives at www.benpopper.com.