Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Microsoft Stumbles Over Its KIN Phone

Although the main focus of this blog is publishing, periodically I post about major computer companies because of their potential to impact the publishing industry.

On May 13, Microsoft released its two new KIN phones, intended to appeal to the youth market. The problem was Microsoft couldn't loosen up enough to really engage the market it was targeting.

Six weeks after the KIN's release, Microsoft decided to kill the product. On June 30, Microsoft announced:

We have made the decision to focus exclusively on Windows Phone 7 and we will not ship KIN in Europe this fall as planned. Additionally, we are integrating our KIN team with the Windows Phone 7 team, incorporating valuable ideas and technologies from KIN into future Windows Phone releases. We will continue to work with Verizon in the U.S. to sell current KIN phones.
Engadget reviewed the KIN here on May 5 and reported:

What [the KIN] was designed to do ... was work really well doing a couple of key tasks, most of them centered around social networking, photos and video, and some overarching concept of capturing your mobile/digital life in a whole new and easy manner. Lofty goals indeed for a product like this, and unfortunately for everyone, Microsoft misses the mark by a long shot. It's not even close.
Gadgetell also reviewed the phone here and had this to say:

Here’s the part that gets us mad: the phone checks in for updates every 15 minutes and sometimes not that fast. For teens and others on the go, how is this acceptable? How is this not plastered on the box as a warning? ... Social doesn’t happen ever[y] 15 minutes, social is in the moment and Microsoft has missed this fact.

And here comes the insulting: Verizon will charge you the full data plan price - even though the phone is throttling usage. That’s right a full $29.99 per month just for the data that is given to you in 15 minute intervals. I’ve gone back and read this 4 times now as I was sure I misunderstood it.
On June 30, Wired opined here as to why the KIN failed:

  1. The Windows 7 Phone is scheduled to be released in time for this year's holidays. "KIN's OS isn't exactly Windows 7 Phone but it's not entirely a new operating system either ..."
  2. "The KIN isn't a smartphone, but it sure had a monthly cellphone plan priced like one." Even though Verizon dropped the monthly cellphone cost from $50 to $30 (with a two-year contract) soon after the launch, the KIN still required users to have a data plan, too. "That means a $70 a month minimum on the bill."
  3. The KIN isn't really a smartphone because "... Microsoft crippled the overall functionality of the device by not allowing apps or games on the phone."
  4. The KIN lacked a "cool factor" and "Microsoft's marketing of the KIN seemed to make it worse."
In one of the early posts I did on this blog back on October 6, 2005, I said:
This morning's Search Engine Journal [SEJ] talked about the newly announced distribution partnership between Google and Sun Microsystems. Google's Toolbar will be distributed with Sun's Java. This deal brings Google into direct competition with Microsoft.

What it also does is bring open source software in direct competition with proprietary software.

Bill Gates' Microsoft is the prototype for a proprietary (closed source) company. We all know that Microsoft's programs only run on Microsoft's operating system. However, "an application built on Sun's Java can be run on any platform regardless of the architecture." (SEJ 10/4/05) Java's operating system fits Google's open source philosophy to a tee.

Rob Sullivan is quoted in the Search Engine Journal as saying: "Google could become a viable alternative to Microsoft. And not just Microsoft applications, but Microsoft as a whole . . . This is the true power of the deal today . . . this is all in line with Google's mission of making the world's information universally accessible."

Google is pitting its open source philosophy against Microsoft's proprietary culture.

Start placing your bets.
Sunday's New York Times here summed up both the KIN and Microsoft's problems:
... the Kin debacle is a reflection of Microsoft’s struggle to deliver what the younger generation of technology-obsessed consumers wants. From hand-held products to business software, Microsoft seems behind the times.

Part of its problem may be that its ability to intrigue and attract software developers is also waning, which threatens its ability to steer markets over the long term. When it comes to electronic devices, people writing software have turned their attention to platforms from Apple and Google.

Meanwhile, young technology companies today rely on free, open-source business software rather than Microsoft’s products, so young students, soon to be looking for jobs, have embraced open-source software as well.

“Microsoft is totally off the radar of the cool, hip, cutting-edge software developers,” said Tim O’Reilly, who publishes a popular line of software development guides.
Take that leap of faith, Bill Gates. Lighten up on the proprietary philosophy.

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