01
Jul 10

The brief life of Microsoft Kin

Not a good day for Microsoft Kin

For anyone keeping score, Microsoft’s dual-disaster Kin One and Kin Two phones managed to breathe on their own for a mere 48 days. Not even enough time to have a litter of puppies.

Sources said “disappointing sales.” One can only imagine what those numbers looked like.

It’s not like this comes as a surprise. You could smell disaster in the initial press release. I blogged once about the lunacy initially, and then again when research confirmed that the target audience wasn’t interested. But hey, I was just a singer in the chorus — these phones were ridiculed pretty much everywhere.

The big question is, how does something like this happen? How could Microsoft just put on the blinders and so enthusiastically fling itself off of a cliff?

A favorite pastime among agency people is looking at some of the wretched ads out there and wondering how on earth they ever got through all the internal checkpoints at the agency, and then again at the client. Somehow, unfathomably, blatantly bad ideas don’t always get shot down. In fact, sometimes they are lovingly embraced. Generously, we can call this human error.

But marketers hardly have the exclusive on inexcusable lapses. Hollywood occasionally serves up those delicious combinations of bad casting and bad script — movies that would be instantly rejected by any amateur moviemaker, yet somehow glide from pitch to production to distribution.

So what’s Microsoft’s problem? Untalented managers? Oblivious CEO? Bad research? Engadget is running a story about what happened behind the scenes with Kin, a story that involves a mid-project OS change and a resulting 18-month delay.

Yeah, fine. But I’m sorry, Kin was just bad casting and a bad script. Kin was based on the idea that “young socials” (teens and 20s) would spark to a less-capable phone “made just for them” — when every young person I know is lusting for an iPhone, Droid or whatever. They want text messaging, apps and games — all of which were mysteriously missing in Kin. The one thing they do not want is “My First Sony.”

Inexplicably, Microsoft thought Kin was a good idea. It wasn’t. In fact, it wasn’t even close, which is why it died faster than any product I can remember. For a company in this industry not to recognize the utter wrongness of Kin is even more unforgivable than creating it.

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  • rd

    Danger was known for good texting phone that teenagers loved.
    Microsoft bought them in Feb 2008 for $500 million. 6 months after the iphone debut.
    meanwhile teens shifted to facebook and such.
    So I think Microsoft thought that they could use the base user of sidekick add some social and walla instant hit.
    Sidekick was with T-moble. I think going with Verizon was also a mistake.
    So only way this is could succeed is if Microsoft subsidized the data rate.
    Verizon is also a looser in this, charging $30 for phone that doesn’t have to much data to use.

  • Scott

    This could easily become the biggest product failure of the decade or at least this year.

  • ken segall

    @rd:
    If Danger was known for “good texting that teenagers loved,” it becomes even more mysterious that texting was not a part of Kin! But yes, it does seem that Microsoft did what they have often done before: misread a shift in preferences.

  • Adam

    “The big question is, how does something like this happen?”

    Last fall, Mobilecrunch revealed some of the back story. Be warned, it’s not a pretty sight: « Much of the Danger/Sidekick team has left or been fired. — Amongst remaining employees, dissent is high. — Employees “hate the product” internally, many feeling that the division exists only to “challenge [the WM7 team] and upset them into competing.” — Etc. »

    http://www.mobilecrunch.com/2009/10/05/microsofts-project-pink-might-be-dead-in-the-water/

  • what’s really funny is that common sense was thrown out the window with this … as was pointed out, any teenager (the target audience) was busy lusting after a smart phone that could do a lot (apps, games, music, video, camera, etc) so to release a $50 hockey puck that did almost none of that while the economy is in such bad shape just gave clear indication of the disconnect between MS and the rest of the world …

    for a humorous version of this scenario, look up the “smug alert” episode of south park, they spoof on hybrid owners, but if you mentally change ‘hybrid’ to ‘MS R&D’, it’s the same thing …