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Why Microsoft Killed Its Kin Smartphone


A multi-million dollar ad campaign couldn't rescue a weak device.

Like your father at a karaoke mixer, Microsoft's (MSFT) attempts to be hip and "with it" have ended with disastrous results. After a multi-million dollar ad campaign aimed at the hipster market, Redmond's weak and broken smartphone Kin failed to score with its target audience and was killed after just six weeks on the shelves. Microsoft has scrapped plans for a European launch of its Kin line and, although sales of existing Kins will continue, the company won't be introducing any additions to the already dismal collection stateside.

Microsoft said its Kin developers will be absolved from duty and integrated into the Windows Phone 7 team where their 20/20 hindsight will be of most help.

Despite a blip of a rumor that Microsoft would be updating its Kin One and Kin Two social phones this summer, the writing was on the wall when Verizon (VZ) drastically slashed its price tags this week. After factoring in mail-in rebates, the Kin One price went from $50 to $30 and the Kin Two was cut in half from $100 to $50. Even with their relatively low sticker price, many analysts and potential customers labeled the Kin phones too cost-prohibitive when coupled with Verizon's monthly plan -- a minimum of $70.

The Kin line launched this May with a severe lack of features. In stark contrast to the iPhone (AAPL) or Android (GOOG) devices like the Motorola (MOT) Droid or Nexus One, the Kins arrived missing many of the apps and capabilities that made its target audience prefer the more popular devices over the past few years.

Built upon the premise of being "social devices," the Kins' syncing ability with Facebook, Twitter, Windows Live, and MySpace (NWS) was rendered completely moot when update notifications were hampered by a 15-minute delay. There was no app store, no games, no calendar sync or scheduling, and any social phone that can't connect to instant message clients such as AIM (AOL) or Yahoo (YHOO) Messenger doesn't really qualify as a social phone.

The OS reshuffling didn't help matters either. The Kins' original platform was based off the established Sidekick OS but was allegedly rebuilt to fit in with Microsoft's Windows mobile platform -- delaying the launch a year and a half, according to Engadget. This would explain a seemingly primitive device entering the market when feature-rich smartphones dominate the industry.

And that ad campaign. Good Lord. Marketing for the Kin line follows in a long line of failed ad tactics at Microsoft's helm. But as misguided, short-sighted, and lame as they were, the Kin ads still wouldn't look any different when placed next to Bill Gates and Jerry Seinfeld yapping about shoes or chuckling fools honoring an operating system with a party.

Forget about Apple. Microsoft can barely out-market BP.

Sources told CNET that Kin sales numbered between 1,000 and 10,000, while Business Insider pegged it under 500. Microsoft hasn't confirmed or denied the sales numbers for the Kin, but judging from how flawed the devices and marketing were, 500 could be a kind estimate.
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