Kin: What is Microsoft thinking?

No doubt you’ve heard that Microsoft has released the Kin, the company’s first smartphone. If you’ve been following the news then you’ve probably also seen the pictures and marvelled at how it is possible for a company with that much money and technological know-how to produce something that looks more like a toy than a real phone.

Some commentators have described the Kin1’s design as “interesting”. The truth is that the phone is simply ugly. There, I’ve said it. I know I’m not the target market of the Kin – perhaps my daughter is – but it is still based on a peculiar set of design principles.

The Kin’s looks are not nearly as perplexing, however, as Microsoft’s actual intentions with the phone. Just a few months ago, in February at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), Microsoft announced Windows Mobile 7. And now the company releases a phone not based on Windows 7 but rather a dumbed-down version of a smartphone with serious limitations.

In Barcelona (at CES) Microsoft waxed lyrically about its new Windows Mobile 7: a completely rebuilt operating system that would pull together the worlds of the Zune and Xbox Live and would bring integrated social networks to the palmtop. But just a few months on instead of an iPhone (or Android) killer Microsoft has launched a device aimed at teenagers that has very few of the features that we have come to associate with smartphones. No additional apps, limited storage and next to no customisation options. It’s crazy in a youth market where games and multimedia uploads and downloads are key features.

I know that the Kin is not the Windows Mobile 7 phone that Microsoft promised earlier this year, but that’s exactly the point. Why is the company spending its energy on a phone this niche when really it ought to be working at getting Windows Mobile 7 onto as many phones as possible?

The iPhone 4G could well be hitting shelves sometime in June and Android’s foothold in the mobile market is getting stronger by the day. Meanwhile Windows Mobile 7 is still vapourware and no matter how good it looks in theory it is not gaining users for Microsoft.

Perhaps Microsoft knows something that we don’t which is why it has released the Kin. Perhaps there are millions of users who simply want to Facebook, Twitter and SMS their friends but don’t want to bother about technology, millions of users who won’t want to bother about adding other applications to their Kin. I’m not convinced, but all strength to them.

I just think that the company should be focusing its energies on getting Windows Mobile 7 out the door. The longer that OS is delayed the more customers Microsoft will lose and the more people will speculate that Microsoft doesn’t actually have a product to match the iPhone or Android.

Kin: What is Microsoft thinking? << Discussion

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Kin: What is Microsoft thinking?