Microsoft launches Kin "social" phone

After years of speculation about a Microsoft-designed mobile phone, the Kin has finally appeared.

Microsoft today previewed its new phone family, Kin, complete with two models. The Kin, designed by Microsoft and built by Sharp, is aimed at social networking. However, the Kin sports a Zune player, but blocks third-party applications and so, at least in my mind, hasn't earned the nickname of "smartphone."

The Kin's Start page, dubbed the Kin Loop, lets users easily interact with their social networks, namely  Facebook, MySpace and Twitter. Kin offers a feature called "Kin Spot" which lets users focus on the people and stuff they want to share, not the application they will use to do so. Videos, photos, text messages, Web pages, location and status updates are shared by simply dragging them to the Spot. The user can choose how and with whom to share the info and then broadcast away.

The phones are also supported by KIN Studio, a cloud service which automatically backs up texts, call history, photos, videos, and contacts. All of which makes Kin look like the Sidekick, but Kin differs in that it is based on a customized version of Windows Phone 7.

Kin integrates with Bing search but oddly, as the Register points out, the big surprise is the absence of Silverlight. This is doubly surprising given that Kin blocks Adobe Flash as it blocks all other third party applications.

Kin One is the lower end option. The Kin One features a compact slideout keyboard, touchscreen, 5 megapixel camera that shoots SD video, a mono speaker, 4G memory for music or photos and the Zune media player.

Microsoft Kin 1 phone

Kin One  

Kin Two features a bigger slideout keyboard, touchscreen, 8 megapixel camera that shoots HD video, stereo speakers, 8G memory and Zune media player.

Microsoft Kin Two phone

Kin Two

The Kin phones will be available in May on the Verizon network for U.S. users. Vodaphone will carry it for various countries in Europe. The press materials didn't mention how much either phone will cost.

The Kin seems particularly geared toward kids and young adults, with little to recommend it as an enterprise phone. That's a tough market to compete in, given the many choices texting teens already have for a not-smart phone.

Here's a video from today's launch that offers a demonstration of Kin.

Posted by Julie Bort

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