Sorry for the pun but I couldn’t resist. Microsoft announced a new phone platform that targets the highly social digital native set. The Kin is the product of a joint venture between Microsoft, Verizon and Sharp and focuses on connectivity with the users networks of friends, friends and friends. In short Microsoft justifiably believe that digital natives or the youth market has multiple sets of friends. There are your friends that you are close to and see regularly in person. There are your friends on your social networks that you may see occasionally but still like to stay in touch with. And there are your friends that you don’t really know such as people that you follow on TwItter. This phone is designed to let you keep track of and share things with your friends in a very manageable fashion.
The home screen on the phone when it is launched is called the Loop. It fees you all the recent Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and other social network feeds that your selected circle of friends have posted recently. It also captures SMS messages and emails that they may have sent you recently. Each contact card for your circle of friends has all their social network feeds associated with them so that you can easily move from Facebook posts to MySpace posts to tweets for that person. A swipe to the left from the home screen and you have the menu for the phones functions such as making a call or sending a text message. At the bottom of every screen is s Kin dot which is the sharing tool for the phone. you can highlight a web address, pictures, videos or messages and drag them to the Kin dot to share them. Next drag the friends contact cards that you want to share this content with to the dot and you are prompted as to whether you want to send an email or post the content to your social network.
The best feature of kin is Kin Studio. Any content captured on the phone is automatically uploaded to a password protected website that belongs to the user of the phone. All the pictures they take, all the videos they take (excluding high definition), the posts they make, the messages they receive, everything is geo tagged and time stamped and placed on a timeline on the site. It is in essence a digital diary the represents the content that they created or captured with the phone. No syncing is required as it is all done via the wireless network automatically. The site can be shared with friends or just kept private.
So will this work for Microsoft. The answer is probably not in Microsoft’s control as much will depend on the price of the phones and the price of the data service from Verizon. If the phones are priced at $199 or $299 and if the data plan is $30 per month then they will probably not sell many of these phones. If on the other hand the price is $99 or $149 and if the data plan is $20 per month unlimited or if they have a data equivalent of a family plan these phones could do really well.
The temptation to compare this to the iPhone will be there but the Kin phones are really very different from the iPhone. They are very narrow in focus. They are targeting the digital native or youth market and they are completely focused on social activities. The iPhone is a much more general purpose device that targets all segments. As such it’s function as a social platform falls short of the Kin bur excels in other areas such as gaming where the Kin does not deliver.
In the end one has to give credit to Microsoft for nailing the behavior patterns of the social digital natives and delivering a device that fits needs very well. Success may be out of Microsoft’s hands but they deserve kudos for a job well done on the phone’s software and the Kin Studio website.
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