Microsoft's Next of Kin

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Farewell, Kin. We hardly knew ye. Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) is killing its Kin social smartphone less than two months after it hit the market.

Alas, the Kin's flop isn't really a surprise. Did anyone remember the original springtime ad campaign, where we were asked to follow Rosa Salazar on her cross-country trek to visit her 824 "friends" through Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace? Creeeeepy.

More than just a Microsoft-powered smartphone, the eclectically shaped Kin aimed to be a social networking tool. The software did offer some compelling sharing features, but it fell into the same trap as Microsoft's own Zune -- or Barnes & Noble's (NYSE: BKS  ) Nook -- did when it comes to bar-raising sharing functionality.

In part, the Kin, Zune, and Nook are all duds because you need a large volume of fellow users in order to run into people that you want to share social media, music, and e-books with, respectively.

You can make the coolest Dixie cup in the planet, but if no one is at the other end of the string, it's just a pretty piece of nothing.

If you don't know any of the 1.7 million Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) iPhone 4 owners, just wait a few weeks, and you'll find plenty of people to test out the FaceTime video chat functionality.

So it's not a shock to see the Kin fail to generate any real buzz. That said, it's still a surprise to see Microsoft kill it off so quickly. The Zune has been meandering in iPod's long shadow for years, yet no one's taking it off life support. Why kill the Kin? Its swift death sends an ominous message to Microsoft's wireless partners, especially as Mr. Softy prepares to throw more of its weight behind its new Windows Phone mobile platform, in hopes of gaining ground against Apple, Research In Motion (Nasdaq: RIMM  ) , and Google's (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) Android.

Verizon Wireless -- a partnership between Verizon (NYSE: VZ  ) and Vodafone (NYSE: VOD  ) -- was aggressively marketing the Kin. What now?

Once again, Microsoft aimed its marketing campaign at jaded hipsters who know better. Once again, Microsoft is on the outside, looking in at another revolution that has moved on without it.

Why do you think the Kin failed? Share your thoughts in the comment box below.

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Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz really does find himself surrounded by more and more Apple appliances these days, but he does not own shares in any of the stocks in this story. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.

Read/Post Comments (3) | Recommend This Article (9)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On July 01, 2010, at 11:13 AM, Ivan0310 wrote:

    Most likely due to the fact that its 'eclectic' design was nothing if not ugly and a totally non-utlitarian form-factor (this is the Kin One of course). The Kin Two tried to apologize for it with something that in my opinion was easily confused for another Samsung smartphone or something closely resembling a Palm Pre.

    That being said, Samsung's new offerings in the Android platform are far more appealing in their power, performance and overall user experience. As well, Palm's webOS has been hailed many times for being one of the most beautifully designed and user-friendly/intuitive interfaces.

    The Microsoft Kin was nothing but a featurephone which failed to deliver the rich end-user experience craved by its target audience, which lives in a world almost totally saturated by the iOS and the ever emerging Android platforms.

  • Report this Comment On July 01, 2010, at 11:29 AM, CPACAPitalist wrote:

    Microsoft's time is better spent securing and expanding its successful ventures - focusing on software and xbox projects is the key to staying relavent. The only "cool" product offered by MSFT is xbox, they aren't going to be apple in the music/tech gadget arena. Jury is still out on their attempts to grab market share of web searches from Google, but I think its going to be a similar story in the long run.

  • Report this Comment On July 01, 2010, at 11:42 AM, jmullina wrote:

    As a Kin owner, I disagree with the thinking in this article.

    First, Kin sharing does not require other people to own a Kin. It actually works best with Facebook (and Windows Live), but you can tweet, etc, too.

    To be clear, the main premise of your article -- that Kin failure was due to lack of other Kin owners to share things with is just plain wrong, and as a result most of the article is nonesense.

    Second, I agree with you that the Kin has some great sharing features. It's not a perfect phone, but the software and hardware are excellent. In particular:

    - Best camera on a phone that i've seen.

    - Automatically syncing (and geotagging) photos/videos

    - Pic and video sharin is best in the world, IMO. Both iPhone and Android users have said to me "Wow - i wish my phone could do that.".

    - Innovative user interaction design - especially the "The Spot", which is very similar to the "The Pocket" that was shown in the Courier prototype videos.

    - Streaming music over-the-air with Zune Pass. This worked really well, and i often use it to send music to my car stero via bluetooth.

    I'm surprised a Bing Search (with navigation) capability is not built in, and the calendar situation is an issue for me. But overall, my Kin 2 is a great phone.

    Rather, it's the business equation is that doesn't seem to work.

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