Just three months after Microsoft announced the Kin phones, Microsoft has decided to halt their plans of selling them in Europe and is merging the Kin team into the Windows Phone 7 team. Existing inventory will probably continue to be sold by Verizon at low, low prices, but it is likely Microsoft won’t release any updates for existing phones, and one has to wonder how long they will maintain the Kin Studio, which provides web access to the data from Kin phones that is stored on Microsoft’s servers.
The phones have received lukewarm reviews from technology web sites, and there has been reports that the phones have not sold very well. Despite the problems, it is surprising that Microsoft is so quickly killing the phones, and the whole episode has been a very expensive failure. The genesis of the Kin phones is the February 2008 acquisition of Danger, which Om Malik reported cost Microsoft $500 million. Several millions of dollars must have been spent by Microsoft in developing Kin, not to mention the partnership with Sharp and Verizon, to whom Microsoft might even have to pay a penalty to escape their contract.
Microsoft’s acquisition of Danger has never made sense to me. Microsoft gave no indication that it was going to replace Windows Mobile with Sidekick, which is the phone and operating system that Danger developed. My belief is that the Kin has mostly been an attempt to gain some return on Microsoft’s investment in purchasing Danger. We now know that Windows Phone 7 looks nothing like Sidekick, and as far as I know the only existing Microsoft product that has any ties back to the acquisition is My Phone. My Phone is a service that backs up Windows Mobile phones and provides web access to your contacts and text messages, and Microsoft does not charge to use the service. Hopefully Microsoft makes a version of Kin Studio work with Windows Phone 7.
On one hand it is good thing that Microsoft made the decision to cut their losses with Kin, but on the other hand I feel bad for the people who probably gave up a good part of their life to develop Kin. While one can debate whether the UI and the phone experience was good or bad, in my opinion the technology is not what has killed Kin, that was done by very high monthly costs of using the phone. The programmers and designers that made Kin are not responsible for the decisions made by their bosses.