Posted by Mike Evans in Mobile Phone Industry on June 30, 2010

Microsoft has killed the Kin, its brand new range of socially-oriented mobile phones that were released in the US just a few short months ago. Although the phones that were released for sale in the US will still until stocks run out, the range will not now be rolled out across Europe, and no other Kin will be developed either.

In other words, it’s in the end of the line for the Kin.

Now this wouldn’t be too bad if it was any old range of phones – after all, even well worn brands such as the RAZR have to end sometime.

But for Microsoft to kill of the Kin so quickly after its launch is, quite frankly, potentially devastating.

Here’s why:

1. Timing

The Kin was literally launched weeks ago. To pull it so soon into its launch shows tha tthe product was misconceived on every level. It ignored the competition and it ignored the market, meaning that Microsoft had ultimately created a product that was underpowered and entirely unwanted. That’s not smart.

2. Odd positioning

The Kin was designed as a range of social media phones that brought Facebook, Twitter and all the other ‘cool’ social apps to your phone. Aimed primarily at the yoof market, it forgot one inconvenient truth – every other phone on the market already does all this, and more.

So the youth didn’t want it as it was too uncool, and adults didnt want it, as it clearly wasn’t aimed at them. Worse, anyone who wanted a Microsoft socially-oriented phone would be waiting for one thing: Windows Phone 7

Microsoft Kin

3. The elephant in the room

When Microsoft first released the Kin, there was one very large elephant in the room: Windows Phone 7, the brand new, much heralded, eagerly awaited new Microsoft mobile OS that’s due for release later this year. This is an extremely impressive mobile OS that represents Microsoft’s last shot at competing in the mobile OS market.

The problem is that the Kin is not based on Windows Phone 7. It’s not even based on Windows Mobile. No, at a time when every mobile manufacturer is releasing their own mobile OS in an attempt to create their own eco-system of apps, Microsoft released yet another one that competed directly against its two existing mobile OSes: Windows Mobile and WIndows Phone 7.

True, the Kin’s OS wouldn’t let you install apps, but that just added another nail in its coffin: no apps, no point!

Worse than this though was that the release of the Kin range showed a fundamental lack of confidence in Windows Phone 7. After all, if Windows Phone 7 is so good, why did Microsoft feel the need to create a completely different range of phones that aren’t based on it and which compete directly against it?

Microsoft Kin One and Kin Two phones

4. Turf Wars

All this smacks of turf wars. There are different departments working on different versions of the same product, but all working against each other.

According to Microsoft’s official statement:

“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.”

Quite why the Kin was allowed to function as a separate unit independent of Windows Phone 7 is anyone’s guess.

Heading for Mobile Meltdown

In fairness, killing the Kin now might just have made Windows Phone 7’s chances of success slightly greater, as Microsoft can now focus on only one mobile OS going forward. This would be a good thing. I don’t like Microsoft’s mobile offerings, but Windows Phone 7 looks to be a cracking new OS, and competition is always healthy.

But with the huge lumbering giant that the company’s become, tripping over itself with ungainly, marketing messes such as the Kin doesn’t auger well for the future.

Microsoft Kin Two phone
Windows Phone 7 is Microsoft’s last chance at success in the mobile arena. Apple and Android are now firmly established, and Blackberry and Nokia are also acting as very entrenched encumbents in the space that Microsoft wants to compete. If Microsoft screws up now, it can kiss goodbye any chance of competing in this market.

Microsoft lovers had better hope it’s just got its act together, and that it’s not about to go into meltdown!

[Source: Engadget]