- Microsoft Kin
Microsoft Kin Manufacturer Sharp Introductory price ONE: $50, ONEm: $20, TWO: $100, TWOm: $20 (with contract) Operating system KIN OS (based on Windows CE) CPU Freescale i. MX31L processor ARM Core
nVidia Tegra APX 2600
Storage capacity ONE: 4 GB, TWO: 8 GB, KIN Studio (unlimited) Memory 256 MB DDR RAM Input QWERTY keyboard Camera ONE: 5MP, TWO: 8MP Connectivity EV-DO Rev, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 2.1 Weight ONE: 3.9 oz (110 g), TWO: 4.7 oz (130 g)
Kin (often stylized as KIN) is a family of mobile phones from Microsoft that were sold through Verizon Wireless. After several years of development, at a cost of approximately $1 billion (USD), Kin became part of the larger Windows Phone family, and was billed as a "close cousin" of Windows Phone 7. On April 12, 2010, Microsoft announced two Kin models, both available online on May 6, 2010 and in stores on May 13, 2010 from Verizon Wireless for the U.S.; the phones were due for release in autumn of 2010 on Vodafone for Europe, but European plans were scrapped due to poor U.S. sales. Since then, the two phones have ceased production, the Kin development team has been folded into the Windows Phone 7 team, and Microsoft has stopped promoting the devices. The Microsoft-designed phones were manufactured by Sharp. The Kin phone was aimed at users of social networking. Microsoft described the phones' target demographic as men and women between the ages of 15 and 30.
Building the Kin platform was a two-year development effort by Microsoft, beginning with the acquisition of Danger Incorporated, which built the Danger Hiptop/T-Mobile Sidekick. Its architecture was described as a family of mobile devices running a custom operating system as part of a client–server system that is then licenced to mobile carriers. The Kin was based on Windows CE.
- 1 History
- 2 Features (original Kin series)
- 3 Features (Kin "m" series)
- 4 Devices
- 5 See also
- 6 References
- 7 External links
The Kin project was first known by the codename 'Project Pink', and began under direction of Microsoft executive J Allard. In order to gain a head start, Microsoft acquired Danger Incorporated in 2008 for a purchase price rumored to be around $500 million (USD). In September 2009, a ZDNet source reported that Project Pink would bring an entirely new software stack and services. Some reports predicted that the new mobile phone platform would be based on the Zune media device.
Kin was developed inside Microsoft's Premium Mobile Experiences (PMX) division by a group that included employees from Danger Inc.. Handset manufacturers and network carriers were said to be initially enthusiastic about Kin, and vying with each other to be involved with the project.
According to the Engadget publication, there was jealousy and rivalry in Microsoft's executive ranks, and Windows Phone Senior Vice President Andy Lees managed to wrestle control of the Kin project away from J Allard, and move it under his Windows Phone division. Danger Incorporated's 'Sidekick' phone, which was the predecessor of Kin, was based on the Java programming language, but Engadget says that Andy Lees wanted Kin to run on an in-house Microsoft operating system. Microsoft planned to base Kin on Windows Phone 7. Due to delays with Windows Phone 7, however, the software instead had to be based directly upon Windows CE.
The unveiling of Microsoft Kin began when the company sent out invitations to select reporters for a mystery event in San Francisco on April 12, 2010. The tagline on the invitation said "It's time to share". However, merely hours later a source confirmed that the event was about Project Pink (the codename for Microsoft Kin, the official name not having been announced yet). The event was held in a night club called Mighty and featured a presentation given by Robbie Bach, president of Microsoft's Entertainment and Device division.
Microsoft was criticized for an online video advertisement for the phone that depicted a male teenager putting a Kin under his shirt to photograph his naked chest. He was then shown sending the image to a female teenager. The Consumer Reports group described the advertisement as a "downright creepy sequence," suggesting that it promoted sexting. In response, Microsoft deleted the "inappropriate" portion of the video.
Kin suffered from poor sales. Microsoft executives told The New York Times that they were dismayed that Verizon Wireless staff were not promoting the phones actively enough. After only forty-eight days on the market, Microsoft discontinued the Kin line on June 30, 2010. Its planned European release on UK carrier Vodafone was canceled.
“The Kin was a mistake from Day One,” Rob Enderle, principal analyst of Enderle Group, told eWeek magazine. “The extra time they took to convert the Kin from the Sidekick platform to Windows CE made it about a year-and-a-half late to market, and the merger likely added another year-and-a-half. That’s 1.5 to 3 years late depending on when you start the clock.”
The Kin ONE and Kin TWO are now back on the market as feature phones, with no required data plan and re-badged as Kin ONEm and Kin TWOm. On November 18, 2010, it was confirmed on the Verizon Wireless website that the phones had returned, though they did not arrive at stores until December. Aside from the names and changed classification as feature phones rather than smartphones, the prices of the devices have dropped, with the Kin ONEm reduced from $50 to free, and the Kin TWOm reduced from $100 to $50, with a new two-year contract.
Also, software features such as the Kin Loop, Kin Spot, Kin Studio, and certain social networking integration have been removed. For the newer "m" phones, there is a way to "downgrade" the firmware to the original version. This can be done by holding "r", "b", and "power" upon turning on the device. The Kin website was discontinued on January 2011, and all user pictures and other information stored on the website were deleted. Verizon is offering a free trade-in to all affected phone owners, offering a 3G smartphone in return. It is unclear whether they will upgrade the original phones to the "m" version.
Features (original Kin series)
Microsoft describes Kin devices as "social phones". The devices straddle the feature phone and smartphone markets, with a third-party OS on the devices, but without downloadable apps or games. with an emphasis on social networking and sharing of content.
Commentators have highlighted Loop's 15-minute delay for updates, which CNET's Ina Fried described as "odd" and, PC World argued, was at odds with Microsoft's claim that the phone is "always-connected". Users cannot adjust Kin's 15-minute interval between message updates, however the user can simply hit a refresh button on-screen or "Lock" then "Unlock" the phone. Microsoft cites battery life and immature social networking APIs as reasons for the delay; Engadget speculates that Microsoft may also be using the delayed messaging to encourage Verizon to offer lower-priced data plans, which would be attractive to the platform's teenage target audience.
The Spot is represented as an omnipresent green dot near the bottom center of the screen. To add an address field, the user drags a recipient's photo to the Spot, then clicks on the Spot, and a page will open allowing the user to create a new email, SMS or MMS.
The Spot can also be used to set up e-mail attachments. However, Kin only supports email attachments, and does not support attachments to other media (like MMS). To attach content to an email, the user drags the content to the Spot, then drags the recipient's photo to the Spot, after which an email can be sent containing those attachments.
The Spot cannot be used to send content to social media sites.
Content from the Kin phone, like photos, videos and messages, was automatically synchronized to a cloud service called Kin Studio and is accessible through a browser. This service was similar to the phoneklone service offered on the Android platform. The Kin Studio website was written in Silverlight and its appearance was similar to the Kin UI, even including a Spot for sharing content. The kin studio was shut down as of January 2011.
The Kin ONE features a five-megapixel camera with standard-definition video recording capabilities. The Kin TWO includes an eight-megapixel camera with 720p video recording. Photos are automatically geocoded on the original phones, but this was disabled on the "m" phones. Every photo and video taken on the original models is uploaded (through January 2011) to Microsoft's service, known as 'Kin Studio'. There is no photo editing software for Kin.
For media, Kin devices sync with Zune desktop software. In addition, the phones are compatible with Zune Pass. Much like current Zune devices, Kin phones can also stream music over a WiFi connection in addition to 3G on the carrier's network. For Mac users, Microsoft in collaboration with Mark/Space has provided a media syncing tool that pulls audio and video files from iTunes and photos from iPhoto. Kin does not support playing video from sites such as YouTube or Hulu.
Kin has no app store and no third-party apps can be installed on the phones. PC World described this as "baffling". Further, the web browser does not support Flash web applications, and there are no games for the phones. Microsoft has claimed that the Kin and Windows Phone 7 platforms will eventually be merged, and downloadable apps will be available for the combined platform.
Reviewers have highlighted a number of notable omissions from Kin's initial feature set:
- The contact list can only be copied from another phone by Verizon store employees. There is no way for the consumer to do this by any known means (over the air, via a memory or SIM card, wirelessly via Bluetooth and vCard, or via direct USB cable connection).
- Kin has no calendar or appointment application, nor any ability to sync with Outlook calendar or Google Calendar. Some commentators have suggested that a social phone should be able to share a social events calendar.
- Kin is unable to Instant Message (IM), or use any IM client, which is considered odd for a phone built for messaging, and aimed at the youth market. It was discovered that the ROM inside the phones contains the foundation for an IM system supporting AOL Instant Messenger, Windows Live Messenger, and Yahoo! Messenger, but it was not currently operational. It was speculated that future revisions of the software would enable instant messaging.
- There is no spelling correction or predictive text input on the Kin.
- There are no MicroSD or other flash memory expansion slots.
- Kin only syncs contacts from Windows Live and Facebook accounts. A workaround is available to sync Gmail contacts via the phone's Exchange functionality.
- The GPS is only used for geocoding photos and location-based search and maps. There is no real-time navigation function.
In the United States, cellular telephone provider Verizon Wireless sold the Kin phones with a voice plan starting at $39.99 per month. An optional Zune Pass costs $14.99 per month for music access.
Relationship to Windows Phone 7
The Microsoft Kin has been described as a "close cousin" to Windows Phone 7. Both have similarities in the interface.
According to Microsoft:
"Both KIN and Windows Phone 7 share common OS components, software and services. We will seek to align around a single platform for both products as well as consistent hardware specifications."
Microsoft said that the underlying fundamentals of Kin and Windows Phone 7 will be held together by similar core technologies. Both operating systems run the same Silverlight platform. Microsoft has stated that over the long-term, Windows Phone 7 would be merged with Kin.
Features (Kin "m" series)
In November 2010, Microsoft and Verizon re-launched the Kin phones, re-labeling them as feature phones with no required data plan. The prices of the phones also were slashed. Where the Kin TWO was formerly $100 on a two-year contract, the new Kin TWOm is now $20 on contract. Similarly, the Kin ONE, formerly $50 on a contract, is now $0 on contract. The fact that a data plan is no longer required, coupled with the fact that the phones are now marketed as feature phones, means that several data-centric features of the operating system have been removed. This includes many of the devices' social elements such as the Loop home screen, the spot, and the KIN Studio cloud storage site. With the lack of a data plan requirement and lower prices up front, Microsoft and Verizon hope to do what they originally planned to do: capture the teenage market.
One seemingly data-laden feature of the old Kin devices succeeding to the new platform is Zune Pass. Still available with the currently sold models, Zune Pass is able to stream music only over Wi-Fi now, even when customers have 3G data enabled, to conserve data. The reason for this is Verizon's new tiered data plans, which marks the end of unlimited data for users. Users are also able to sync music, podcasts, TV shows, and movies to their Kin phones through the Zune software. Music can be downloaded directly to the phones as well, though only over Wi-Fi. Podcasts, TV shows, and movies must be synced to the phone via the Zune Software on a Windows PC.
One of the complaints with the Kin phones was their lack of a calculator and a calendar, applications that even the most basic feature phone typically has. The calendar application, though simple, quells most user's complaints with timed alerts and reminders, as well as day, month, and year views. One issue is that the calendar cannot be synchronized with Microsoft Outlook, Microsoft Exchange, or even Windows Live Hotmail. The calculator application, though simple, is able to complete most functions. One drawback is that when the phone is rotated, the calculator does not turn into a scientific calculator, per most phones with accelerometer, but instead simply re-orients to landscape mode.
Aside from the social networking features, the phone now also no longer geocodes pictures. Other features missing on the original version continue to be absent from the current software, including disallowing Bluetooth access for file transfer and wireless printing. A missing feature on the Kin Twom is its inability to forward previously sent messages. Text messages are sent in a chat style format making it unable to single out a certain text message.
"The KIN uses a proprietary browser made specifically for the KIN. No other browsers can be used or downloaded. Silverlight was used for the creation of the KIN studio, not the browser." The browser is IEMobile 6.12. The full user agent string is
Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows CE; IEMobile 6.12; en-US; KIN.Two 1.0)
Kin ONE and ONEm
- Originally codenamed Turtle
- QWERTY keyboard that slides up and lies on top of the phone
- 2.6" TFT, QVGA (320 x 240) Display
- Capacitive touch screen
- 5 megapixel camera, with LED flash
- 4 GB of memory, 256 MB DDR RAM
- Nvidia Tegra at 600 MHz
- Mono Speaker
- Bluetooth 2.1 with A2DP
- USB (for charging, syncing with Zune Software)
Kin TWO and TWOm
- Originally codenamed Pure
- Side-sliding QWERTY keyboard
- 3.4" TFT, HVGA (480x320) pixel Display
- Capacitive touch screen
- 8 megapixel camera, with Lumi LED flash
- 720p Video Recording
- 8 GB of memory, 256 MB DDR RAM
- Nvidia Tegra at 600 MHz
- Stereo Speaker
- Bluetooth 2.1 with A2DP
- USB (for charging, syncing with Zune Software)
- Danger Sidekick
- Windows Mobile
- Windows Phone 7
- Zune HD
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- ^ a b Matt Hamblen (12 May 2010). "Microsoft, Verizon defend Kin's monthly pricing, noting cloud backup". http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9176587/Microsoft_Verizon_defend_Kin_s_monthly_pricing_noting_cloud_backup.
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- ^ Johan van Mierlo (11 May 2010). "Sync Your Google Mail- Gmail Contacts to the KIN ONE & KIN TWO". http://www.mobilityminded.com/7740/sync-your-google-mail-gmail-contacts-to-the-kin-one-kin-two. Retrieved 27 May 2010.
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- ^ a b Microsoft launches the Kin!. . Tegra Developer Zone (nVidia). 13 April 2010. http://tegradeveloper.nvidia.com/tegra/news/microsoft-launches-kin. Retrieved 20 June 2010.
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- Official Kin website[dead link]
- Gizmodo article about Kin
- Microsoft's Channel 9 Demo Video
- The next step into social is Microsoft Kin
- Unboxing: Microsoft Kin Two - Windows Phone from Verizon by Sharp
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