Microsoft KIN: Notes from the launch

Here are some (live) thoughts from the Microsoft KIN (formerly “Pink”) launch event. I’ll update this as it goes…

First up, the KIN web site is live.

There are two models, the KIN ONE (“Turtle”) and the KIN TWO (“Pure”), the latter of which is a candy bar design.

It syncs via Zune PC software (!) and works with Zune Pass. Has a built-in FM radio.

Touch-screens all around. Touch-based web browser.

Dedicated search button, just like Windows Phone.

Dedicated emoticon button on the keyboard, which is interesting.

KIN “Spot” is the UI for sharing – literally a round green dot at the bottom of the screen. You drag items (photos, video, texts, sites, people) to the dot to share them with friends.

Billed as a “Social Phone” (i.e. not “feature phone”).

KIN Loop is the feed of real-time info from your contacts, via multiple social networking sources.

Both phones feature a camera with video capabilities.

KIN Studio is the online site (like My Phone??) for storing and backing up KIN-based photos, videos contacts, and messages.

Target market, as expected is young and annoying people. :) They like to share. What they’re sharing is banal. but whatever. It’s the “social generation.”

Friends (real friends) vs. “friends” (people you sort of know, usually online, or acquaintances of other kinds) .. and how to juggle those different kinds of friends.

“Lifecasting” – they’re doing it every day. Focused on self-expression. A multi-screen digital life. Bringing that to the phone? One that is designed just for them.

Windows Phone 7 – best multi-purpose phone for business users and consumers – (told you so) :) – but there is a need for a specific target social audience – customize for this audience around social communication.

“Crank social to 11″ just like they did for Xbox Live.

Nice: Windows Phone 7 is about simplifying life. KIN is about amplifying life.

Knit together a community of kindred spirits. Newest member of the Windows Phone family. Interesting that that’s the focus. It is not Sidekick, technologically. That is unexpected.

A packaging picture …

Music – first Windows Phone to ship with Zune. UI looks/works like Zune HD. Nice!

Photos – has to be a better way. 5 and 8 megapixel lenses with flash. KIN TWO shoots in HD. Wow. Vast majority of people use phones for pictures, but for one third, the photos are stuck on the phone. Thus, KIN Studio. Web site as noted above. Integrated with the SPOT. It’s like capturing a life journal. Added timeline so you can go back and revisit what happened. Auto geotagging of photos.

KIN is much more than a phone … is a social experience.

Sharp is making the hardware

Verizon/Vodafone because they want to release it worldwide

Mobile experience built from the ground up for the socially connected – share anything: Pictures, videos, whatever – with anyone, from wherever you are.

Keynote is over … some notes from the event…

Microsoft started looking at the market a few years ago … Not an audience Microsoft has focused on in the past, but is literally the future. Needed to understand what was happening there, and develop branded end to end experience on the phon.

Building for a world where every phone has an IP connection. Data is as important as voice and text.

Services in the cloud behind the KIN: Camera experience includes high res photos trickling to the cloud automatically. No way to run out of space. Can’t fill up the phone. KIN service has connections to all the social networks, resides in Windows Live.

Customer base spends beyond their income. On family plans. 15-25 years old. Fantastic opportunity, good timing. Do something different than traditional phones with cables, tethering.

Unique and differentiated. Phones are used to store memories.

Device walkthrough

Actual hardware … comparing to an iPhone. (Heh.) Both a KIN ONE and KIN TWO.

Home screens are customizable … Social feeds, news feeds, interesting presentation. Find something you want to share, dump it into the Spot. Square portions of UI are vaguely similar to Windows Phone 7. Has an Xbox-like green theme made to match the hardware, but is customizable. Timeline-based UI with newest stuff on top. Can drop into individual services (Facebook) if you want.

Studio was called the Connector before.

KIN ONE stays in one orientation; KIN TWO has accelerometer and can rotate.

Zune software – called Music + Video on device, like with WP7. Very familiar UI (if you know the Zune HD).

Studio demo (via PC and web browser) – It’s written in Silverlight. Zune-esque but super-graphical. Nice timeline view. Unlimited storage (!). Nice map view that work with the geotagging. SPOT is available on the Studio too; drag items in from the desktop. Your most favorite photo becomes the background in Studio. If you change the theme in the device, it changes it on Studio.

Zune PC software on the PC, but MS is supporting Mac with KIN Sync software. So no plans for Zune on the Mac.

Supported services: Facebook, MySpace, Twitter (but not photos), Windows Live (photos and content)

Internal storage: 4GB on KIN ONE, 8GB on KIN TWO. There is no memory card slot (contrary to rumors).

Apps? This crowd wants social networking. So we integrated that. Not siloed apps. And no third party apps. No app market. No games. But we will OTA updating. As the market evolves, will continue to add things to the device.

Carrier services? This was developed with Verizon. These are the services we are shipping with.

No IM for 1.0. Suggests they’re looking at that.

Under the hood – a lot in common with Windows Phone. Common kernel (but not exactly the same). KIN service is different. Rendering layer and UX is different. Slightly different web browser. Phones will get updated differently. KIN and Windows Phone are not “in sync” with each other. Low level stuff is shared. But they’re not on the same trajectories. Some KIN stuff will move into WP and vice versa, over time. These are two distinct customer segments. Only a little overlap.

Started down this path before linking with Danger. They are not technologically related at all. Spiritual relation? They’re part of the team. Sidekick is a T-Mobile brand. This is not the next Sidekick.

Marketing. Joint investment with Verizon. Releasing next month, in May. Fully integrated ad campaign. New brand, distinct. KIN is Microsoft’s brand. There could be future devices on different networks?

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49 Responses to Microsoft KIN: Notes from the launch

  1. dhs13 says:

    I like the presentation. It has possibilities.

  2. pastorwelker says:

    I could totally see my two teenage boys really wanting one of these devices.

  3. bennedik says:

    And which operating system is this thing running?
    Does it run 3rd party applications? If so, is there a market place?

  4. zunderscore says:

    So it IS, in fact, running WP7 underneath?

  5. sqfreak says:

    The target market spends beyond their means? That can’t be good.

    • Paul Thurrott says:

      Meaning they’re supported by mom and dad. They’re not paying for the monthly fees and or the phone.

  6. gftw says:

    I predict a huge success.

    The Zune its self has really kind of failed. However the Zune software and Zune pass are good. Taking the good from the Zune and putting it on this phone was a very smart move.

    I see SO MANY…SO MANY young people LIVING on their phones at the movies, at the mall, DRIVING(sad) and many other places. This product will resonate with them big time. The main reason is that its simple, and has the main things they need.

  7. tekdragon says:

    Not too crazy about the phones themselves, although I could see why some younger people might be. What really intrigues me is the Kin Studio. I really like the way photos are geo-tagged and how they are put in a timeline. I hope this will be able to be used with WP7, maybe integrated into My Phone somehow?

  8. Oday Nasser says:

    hahhah this is a joke, the name, everything. The problem with its design is the the hardware is kind of curved shaped, but the software uses rectangular-squarey shapes. This could be a cool idea if it was a separate app, but a for a phone, no way.

    I love how no one clapped through the entire presentation.

    Another reason why MS needs a CEO like Steve Jobs.

    Great day for Google + Apple.

    • Paul Thurrott says:

      So, that’s really not fair. The audience for this device wasn’t the audience at the event. Arguably those people–like me–don’t quite get this market. But we’ll see. Off hand, it looks pretty good to me. Certainly better than I expected.

      • Oday Nasser says:

        yes but the target audience wouldn’t even hear about this phone, 12 year olds are not really into tech. iPhone sounds cooler than this with dozens of games and apps. so i don’t know how this is gona sell. I’m 17 year olds, and none of my friends dont know what the Zune is and its been out for 4 years now. These MS products dont get any attention.

      • palavering2u says:

        I agree with you, Paul. This is a product with a well-defined market and should sell!

      • pastorwelker says:

        My boys just got home from school. They both have Zunes but now they both want one of these.

      • Paul Thurrott says:

        :) Nice. Honestly, I think when people see these things in person, they’re going to be impressed. They’re perfect for the target audience: Busy in ways that would annoy adults, which I have to think is the point.

      • Oday Nasser says:

        please dont tell me you are gonna buy it for them. Dont waste your money!

  9. claytontlewis says:

    This is being done by the sidekick team isn’t it? Is that team part of WP7 now or do they do their own thing?

    • Paul Thurrott says:

      No, it’s not. The Sidekick guys were added to this team at some point, but it was underway before that happened. This is not the next Sidekick. It’s a new brand, and it’s based on Windows Phone, not Sidekick.

      • claytontlewis says:

        I knew it wasn’t the Sidekick, just curious what those guys are doing now. They seemed to really understand the teen market that this is going after. Not a phone I will be interested in, but I think this will do well for the Windows Phone brand.

      • Paul Thurrott says:

        So according to MS, the Sidekick guys are now on the KIN team. No one was willing to speculate when/if there would be a future Sidekick rev. Guessing not.

      • claytontlewis says:

        Thats great. The device has the same sort of feel to it that makes you think the Sidekick team was involved. I hope Verizon markets this thing well like they did with the Droid.

      • Paul Thurrott says:

        Yeah … Pricing annoucement and the marketing should start soon.

      • Mike Cerm says:

        That’s the thing: how will this be priced? The iPhone 3G in only $99, so it’s got to be below that. If Verizon is going to saddle these with mandatory data plans, it’s just a non-starter. Most parents don’t get data plans for their kids, which is the target market for these devices. If you’re going to be paying the same monthly cost either way, why not just get a “real” smartphone?

      • Paul Thurrott says:

        Well, there are two prices here. There’s the “price,” or the upfront cost. But there’s also the monthly fee, which in the case of an iPhone or other smart phone requires a data plan.

        Neither is known because Verizon is handling that, and I was told that pricing would happen in the next few weeks. But KIN has to come in under the iPhone (or whatever) in overall cost, not just that one-time fee. And with a base cost of $80 a month for an iPhone with the cheapest SMS plan, that shouldn’t be too hard.

      • Richard Hamilton says:

        Verizon’s pricing structure is well..interesting. They changed it a while ago so most of their most basic phones-the “3G multimedia phones” on VZW’s site- (alias 2, Motorola Rival, etc) require a 15 dollar data plan. Too bad that this 15 dollar plan is no longer unlimited but is instead for a measly amount of data: 25 MB.

        So, if their current feature phone pricing holds true, people are looking at a 29.99 a month data plan if they want unlimited data. (and with the way these are web connected..it’s a must) That can be a bitter pill to swallow in today’s economy, and it also means that the hardware’s going to have to be compelling since smartphone data plan pricing is exactly the same at 29.99.

        It’ll be interesting to see how Verizon differentiates these phones/plans (if they do at all)

      • gpsarakis says:

        The plan might be the same $30 or they could have a KIN only special plan for less. That or they can have the phones for very very cheap, maybe $50 for the Kin1 and $80 for the Kin2? I suppose it all depends on what MS has in place as well?

      • genericperson says:

        It’s interesting that the domestic US iPhone plans are so expensive. In Australia, all of our networks sell the iPhone, and many of them have all-inclusive voice/text/data cap plans for as little as AU$49 per month (US$45). Granted, these are not “unlimited” plans, but they still represent good value for the vast majority of people.

      • Paul Thurrott says:

        I’d like to see a pay-as-you-consume plan in the US, which would dramatically lower prices, especially if it was capped at the current cost of an unlimited plan.

      • gpsarakis says:

        That could be a good move. I’m sure some will use it more than others ofc, so paying for what you use makes sense. But you do need a starting price, maybe what? $10?

      • gpsarakis says:

        Since it seems to be specific to verizon in the US and vodafone in the EU, both of those should market the heck out of these.

        I know from living in the EU that vodafone markets it’s “feature phones” to hell, all the good deals come with one of them (mostly some samsung or LG phone) so I expect more of the same. And these things do sell. MS and co just have to keep advertising them with some very good prices.

  10. kellings1 says:

    I have spent a lot of time in schools watching high school basketball games over the last few years. I am always paying attention to what the kids are using for phones, and how they use them. While the Kin 1 or Kin 2 (could they not think of a better name than 1 or 2?) don’t look like something I would use, they look a lot better than what I saw the kids using. And where I am there is no AT&T service so the kids can’t get an iphone.

    The Kin Studio looks interesting to me. Seems to resemble the Zune desktop software a little. Paul, do you think we will see something similar to Kin Studio integrated into Windows Phone 7?

  11. Pingback: Introducing KIN, a New Windows Phone from Microsoft | The Software Nook

  12. brianj2010 says:

    Hey Paul, just wanted to say I love this site!! I come and check it out like twice a day. My question is do you think Microsoft will buy Palm?

    • Paul Thurrott says:

      Gut reaction: No way. But there could be one decent reason. What if Palm owns a bunch of relevant patents? It might make sense for that reason alone.

  13. gpsarakis says:

    I missed the live event, is there a video of this still up somewhere?

  14. magicwin31 says:

    I wonder if this will ever make it to AT&T.

    • Paul Thurrott says:

      Not anytime soon, maybe not ever. This is a joint Verizon thing.

      • magicwin31 says:

        Might they make something similar but not the Kin for AT&T? I feel like not having it on the two big carriers is a bad idea, but then again iPhone is on only AT&T and seems to be doing fine.

  15. Pingback: John W Hancock: Microsoft Pink is now KIN, The Ultimate Social Phone

  16. davelindhout says:

    The teens in question have hamburger budgets and caviar tastes, funded largely by their parents. Whether they are willing to settle for burger remains to be seen. For that matter, the price of the Kin better be hamburger because there ain’t enough features to pass as caviar, or even sirloin.

  17. backup77 says:

    This actually looks good. Obviously Microsoft is aiming for a younger demographic but this thing has some good possibilities. I like the design of the KIN website, quite cool.

  18. secondruntv says:

    I think this makes total sense… There is a mis-conception out there that everyone in the market wants a smartphone. There is still a MASSIVE market of people who wont download apps… I dont want my kids getting an iphone with an app store account tied to my credit card… this actually sounds like a pretty cool go-between for a simple dumb phone and a smart phone. Like everyone else has said… if this marketed right it could be a pretty big deal.

    Also… if this does run some of the some code as WP7 maybe this is a kind of test bed for MS to test some things like OTA updates before the launch of WP7. It would also help to grow the size of the Zune subscription base… I’m sure the more people who get subscribed the more content we will start to see hitting it.

    I just think there are SOOOO many people out there that think everything is trying to compete with an iPhone and that there is no place for anything else in the market. We will see what the pricing looks like… if they can price this somewhere that allows you to add a Zune pass and still be under the normal price of something like an iPhone monthly that could be HUGE!

  19. genericperson says:

    I think the KIN phones have the potential to do very well if marketed heavily and very well.

    Microsoft needs to get the device out there.

    One thing I do find confusing though is all the focus-group language that Microsoft uses when identifying its target market. Nonsense like “life maximiser” or “sociologist” – terms that make no sense to most people. They need to avoid the jargon if they’re going to cut-through.

    • Paul Thurrott says:

      Right. I don’t mind that they do this sort of research internally but they seem to not understand that it’s jarring and unwanted by any audience. It’s like being categorized as cattle.

      • genericperson says:

        I hope you can pass this comment along to the decision makers in your forthcoming consultations.

        I really want to get excited about Microsoft products. I’ve been a fan for a long time. But I don’t want them to call me a “life maximiser”. Please. :-)

  20. genericperson says:

    By the way Paul, can I just say that using WordPress is a million times better than your Community Server blog at WinSuperSite. I’m guessing you’re tied to that god-forsaken platform due to the advertising platform used by WindowsITPro, but seriously, your employer needs to get with the program on blogs. WordPress is also MUCH faster.

    • Paul Thurrott says:

      Sure, but I don’t have a choice with the tools they use there. I’ve voiced my displeasure. It’s going to change, eventually. But I’m sure the new tools will be just as bad.

      • claytontlewis says:

        I’m liking it more too, but I’d still like time stamped comments. It seems like sometimes it just randomly places the comments in line.

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