After just two months on the market, and despite a massive TV advertising campaign (that even I thought was pretty good), Microsoft has pulled the plug on its Kin phones, as I unsolicitedly advised a few weeks ago. The Kin One and Kin Two both feature clever industrial design and an emphasis on social-networking applications. But that was about it, and, again as I previously noted, conflict with one's OEMs must be avoided - if you sell operating software for smartphones, don't sell smartphones. It looks like Microsoft is now getting its act together here, along with additional personnel reassignments that may also help in establishing and perhaps even maintaining focus. BTW, if you want a Kin One or Two, Verizon is blowing them out.
Interestingly, Fierce Wireless reported (OK, they're reporting a rumor) that, again despite huge expenditures on advertising, MS sold only 500 (really, 500, that's not a typo) Kins. It's pretty amazing (and very unusual) to see such a massive crash and burn in handsets, especially with the world's biggest software company behind it all. Now, really, tell me that Microsoft hasn't lost their touch and still matters in mobile. C'mon.
Of course, it may very well be, as the Fierce Wireless piece speculates, that a smartphone that's really good for only social networking isn't going to have the utility of a more general-purpose device, but one has to believe that the overall features of the Kins were sufficient to satisfy a somewhat larger audience. And it might be interesting to speculate as to the future of other social-networking-focused front ends like Motorola's Motoblur, featured prominently on so many of their smartphones. But I don't think there's anything fundamentally wrong with the concept of a socially-oriented integrating front end, so why did Kin flop?
Again, this doesn't bode well for the future of MS in mobility, as I've been saying all along. I still do not see the company as a long-term survivor here. Linux will be #1 - and with the BlackBerry somewhat stagnant and the recent iPhone, um, "issues", Linux is getting a huge boost, particularly in the form of Android. Again, how MS survives long term here is a complete mystery to me.
Mathias is a principal at Farpoint Group, a wireless advisory firm in Ashland, Mass.