Why Microsoft's Kin Phones Were Destined to Fail

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Microsoft has discontinued the Kin phones line, just six weeks after it launched the devices. The company blamed low sales numbers, and was reluctant to say how many it sold exactly. But the Kin's failure comes as no surprise, with a troubled Microsoft playing catch-up in the mobile world.

The Kin phones were too pricey from the beginning. They weren't exactly smartphones, but they were priced like one. The Kin One cost $130, and the Kin Two cost $150 with a two-year Verizon contract (before a mail-in rebate). Verizon dramatically slashed Kin prices earlier this week by $100, with the Kin Two at a mere $50 and Kin One at $30.

But Verizon's price cuts were not enough. Microsoft targeted the Kin at teenagers, as an always-connected device for their social lives on Twitter and Facebook. This Internet connectivity however, came at a cost: Verizon's data and voice charges for the Kin ranged up to $70 per month, an amount most teenagers working at fast-food counters would struggle to meet for their phone alone.

Microsoft and Verizon didn't want to give any indication as to how many Kins they sold in the first six weeks of availability, leaving plenty of room for speculation. A rumor from Business Insider said that Microsoft sold only 500 Kins, while a CNet source was much more generous, placing the figure "south of 10,000." Nevertheless, such reports point to a low number.

Although cool for a teenager, the Kin phones arrived perhaps a year too late. An interesting revelation in this area came from Engadget's Joshua Topolsky, who claims that the device should have made it to the market 18 months ago--but the Kins were delayed, as Microsoft allegedly wanted the operating system on the phones to be based on Windows, instead of the Sidekick platform, which Microsoft acquired with Danger in 2008.

Plus, the Kin OS had no apps or maps, and paired with a price tag too steep for its target audience, the Microsoft Kin was pretty much dead on arrival. Why would a teenager want Microsoft's expensive hipster phone, when they could get, for $99, an iPhone 3GS with iOS 4 and join the iParty? Alternatively, Palm's Pre and Pixi Plus phones carry pricing similar to the original pricing for the Kins, but have more software features--making them a better deal than a Kin.

Microsoft said it would continue to sell the Kin through Verizon (it probably has plenty of the initial stock left over), but the company said that it is now focusing exclusively on the Windows Phone 7 operating system, arriving later this year. Let's hope Microsoft has better luck with that product.

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