Microsoft’s announcement of what can best be described as the successor to the Sidekick, “Kin,” slipped below the fold in my RSS reader because of the flurry of stories related to the iPhone leak. As a result I haven’t managed to write anything about it yet, but I certainly have a lot of opinions about it.
If you don’t already know, Microsoft announced two handsets, the Kin One and Kin Two. Both handsets use an entirely different user interface than Windows Phone 7 and there isn’t any support for third-party apps.
I can’t explain to you how silly I think this entire initiative is. Microsoft has everything they need to make a real, genuinely good experience in the mobile space and they seem determined to fail. Less than one month after Windows Phone 7 is detailed they drop this thing in our laps. I understand that they want to market Kin towards teenagers but why is Apple the only handset maker confident enough in their products to market their handset to everyone? Men, women, teenagers, businessmen, etc. Why couldn’t Microsoft integrate the team at Danger into their own mobile division and simplify their lineup? Instead they’ve decided to split development and resources between two distinctly different offerings. Kin doesn’t even run on the same Windows CE kernel as Windows Phone 7.
But, it isn’t just Windows Phone 7 and Kin, there’s this third platform called Zune. They’ve attempted to integrate all of the platforms together through Zune with it’s desktop software and Zune Pass but what’s the point of having apps for Zune, different apps for Windows Phone 7, and zero apps for Kin? I don’t understand why they couldn’t attempt to compete with Apple head-on and build one operating system for all three systems. Windows Phone 7 could be the OS that runs on Zune, Kin, and other manufacturer’s handsets. Zune could be the phone-less device that Apple (with the iPod touch) has learned to be oh so important. Kin could simply be the branding that Microsoft uses on their own handsets, while Windows Phone 7 could be the underlying OS that runs on all of them. I’m sure Microsoft’s partners wouldn’t be too happy about competing with Microsoft, but at least we would know where Microsoft was headed. And, Microsoft would know for sure that there is at least one Windows Phone 7 handset (their own) on the market that lives up to their standards and has decent push behind it.
Microsoft has been struggling to keep market share with Windows Mobile and it looked like they were headed in the right direction when Windows Phone 7 was announced, but their Kin announcement has made me lose all hope. If you know what to look for you can see the resemblance between Kin and Windows Phone 7. But, the extra social integration and lack of third-party apps makes Kin look like this strange oddball device that has little do with Zune or Windows Phone 7.
Microsoft seems to have a problem eating their own dog food. Not only is the Kin website written in Flash (as apposed to Silverlight), Licensing Windows Phone 7 to other manufacturers while using another OS on their own handsets makes me feel like Microsoft is unsure about how good either one of them are, so instead of putting all of their effort behind one or the other they’ve decided to hedge their bets. This means that, aside from the people on the Windows Phone 7 and Kin teams, no one in the company is really behind either one of the two. Without the full force of the company I don’t know if either one of them will be anything more than Windows Mobile Part 2.