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April 12, 2010

Microsoft launches KIN, a social Windows phone

Posted by David Hunter at 1:04 PM ET.

Microsoft today unveiled their much buzzed entry in the mobile phone marketplace, but in keeping with their desire to still sell their phone operating system to the usual phone vendors, it has an oddly circumscribed target customer set:

Microsoft Corp. today announced KIN, a new Windows®Phone designed specifically for people who are actively navigating their social lives. Brought to life through partnerships with Verizon Wireless, Vodafone and Sharp Corporation, KIN is designed to be the ultimate social experience that blends the phone, online services and the PC with breakthrough new experiences called the Loop, Spot and Studio. KIN will be exclusively available from Verizon Wireless in the U.S. beginning in May and from Vodafone this autumn in Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom.

The New Way to Share

The home screen of the phone is called the KIN Loop, which is always up to date and always on, showing all the things happening in someone’s social world. KIN automatically brings together feeds from leading Microsoft and third-party services such as Facebook, MySpace and Twitter all in one place, making it easier to stay connected. Customers can also select their favorite people, and KIN will automatically prioritize their status updates, messages, feeds and photos. Another unique feature, the KIN Spot is a new way for people to share what’s going on in their world. It lets them focus first on the people and stuff they want to share rather than the specific application they want to use. Videos, photos, text messages, Web pages, location and status updates are shared by simply dragging them to a single place on the phone called the Spot. Once all the people and content are in the Spot to share, the consumer can choose how to share, and start broadcasting.

Your Phone, on the Web

KIN Studio is your phone online. Almost everything created on the phone is available in the cloud from any Web browser. Photos and videos are freed from the confines of the phone and presented in an online visual timeline so they are easy to view and share. The KIN Studio automatically backs up texts, call history, photos, videos and contacts, and populates a personalized digital journal so it’s easy to go back in time to relive a crazy weekend or recent birthday. And the KIN Studio gives customers tons of storage to keep all those photos, videos, contacts and texts so they’ll never run out of space on their phone and lose a memory.

Music and More

KIN will be the first Windows Phone to feature a Zune experience — including music, video, FM radio and podcast playback. With a Zune Pass subscription, customers using Zune software on their PC can listen to millions of songs from Zune Marketplace on their KIN while on the go, or load their personal collection. KIN also has other features customers want in a phone including a rich browser with the ability to share pieces of the Web, local and Web search by Bing, and an RSS feed reader to pull down information on people and stories from the Web.

The KIN is the product previously rumored as the "Pink Phone" and is an descendant of the Sidekick product acquired with the 2008 acquisition of Danger, Inc. As for the target market, the polite way to refer to it is as a "younger crowd," but the temptation is irresistible to refer to the KIN as the Kid’s Phone. I suppose the good news is that Microsoft probably has not burned their bridges with the phone OEM’s, but the bad news is likely that the KIN sinks like a rock. My guess that trying to convince the average teenager that he/she really wants a KIN and not an iPhone or BlackBerry is going to be a tough sell.

Filed under Acquisitions, Argo, Coopetition, Danger, Inc., Kin, Microsoft, Microsoft Hardware, Pink Phone, Sidekick, Zune

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October 13, 2009

Microsoft’s Danger subsidiary strands Sidekick users

Posted by David Hunter at 11:11 AM ET.

The 1 million users of smartphones from Microsoft subsidiary, Danger, Inc. got a nasty surprise over the weekend:

A server meltdown over the weekend wiped out the master copies of personal data — including address books, calendars, to-do lists and photos — accumulated by users of T-Mobile’s formerly popular Sidekick smartphone.

This computing calamity allows Sidekick owners only a faint hope of backing up the information currently on their devices, and none of recovering anything they’d trusted to online storage. And it leaves T-Mobile and the operator of the Sidekick’s data service, a Microsoft subsidiary formerly known as Danger, Inc. — oh, the irony! — with some serious explaining to do.

Glitches in cloud computing services are not overly rare, but this one was rather unique:

But it is one of the few times a cloud-computing vendor didn’t have any backups — even though the Sidekick’s design leaves users without any easy way to copy their data to their own computers, and even though Microsoft and Danger should have known to run a new backup cycle when a bout of service glitches set in the week before Sidekick users’ data vanished down the bit bucket. It’s one thing for a distracted, inexperienced person at home to forget to back up data until it’s too late; it’s another for a company with the resources of Microsoft to make the same mistake.

Presumably, Microsoft is regretting the rumored US$500 million they spent acquiring Danger, Inc. in February 2008, but they should have done their own due diligence both before and after they bought the company. It may also have a deleterious effect on the rumored Microsoft "Pink" phone which is supposedly based on Danger, Inc designs.

Update: T-Mobile is holding out hope that some user data may still be restored and giving $100 credits to users with a significant loss of data. If you lost your business contact list, calendar, to-do list, and photos, would $100 cover your loss? In the meantime, Sidekick users are instructed not to remove the battery or reset their Sidekicks.

Filed under Acquisitions, Coopetition, Danger, Inc., Microsoft Hardware, Pink Phone, Sidekick, T-Mobile

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September 23, 2009

Microsoft rumored Pink phone revealed

Posted by David Hunter at 10:07 PM ET.

Microsoft Pink phone turtle


Microsoft Pink phone pure

Another day, another Microsoft leak reported by the folks at Gizmodo. This time it is two models (Turtle, Pure) of Microsoft’s long rumored Pink phone:

These phones are going to be made by Sharp, who’ll get to share branding with Microsoft. Sharp produced the Sidekick hardware for Danger, who was bought by Microsoft two years ago. Pink will be primarily aimed at the same market as the Sidekick, and the branding and identity for it is highly developed, pointing toward a later stage in the development cycle.

The prior relationship between Danger and Sharp is the only reason we can think of why Microsoft stuck with Sharp for the new phones, and perhaps why they look so much like remixed Sidekicks. The youth bent is somewhat surprising, if Pink is going to be their big consumer phone play, building off the expertise of Danger and members of the Zune team.

We mentioned the Danger acquisition in February 2008 at which point it looked like just a software play. The Sharp-Danger Sidekick itself was billed as a "hiptop" device that was smaller than a laptop or netbook but bigger than a cell phone, and the photos of the apparently chunky Pink phones do nothing to dispel that same impression. Moreover, the idea of a new form factor is a convenient way to avoid overtly antagonizing Microsoft’s main line cell phone partners who are dutifully licensing Windows Mobile. Still, would you want to buy your smart phone OS from a serious competitor?

So is Pink Microsoft’s answer to the iPhone or just a demo? Time will tell.

Filed under Acquisitions, Coopetition, Danger, Inc., Microsoft Hardware, Pink Phone, Sharp, Sidekick, Windows Mobile, Windows Mobile 6.5

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