So, Microsoft finally took the wraps off of ‘project pink’. To recap, ‘pink’ was Microsoft’s aim at the youth market for feature rich cell phones. Microsoft introduced two devices, the Kin 1 and the Kin 2. Both devices are based off of the same Windows CE core that both Zune HD and the up coming Windows Phone 7 devices run. The opinions of the tech press are now in and, not surprisingly, most are negative. But, so far, the negativity is not directed at the devices or the Kin OS but, rather, the way they are being marketed, the name and the ‘Kin Spot’.
CNet’s Molly Wood was, perhaps, the most annoying of the lot. I like Molly Wood because she’s not conventional and doesn’t always follow the pack (especially when it comes to all things Apple) but her caustic views can get in the way of taking some of what she says seriously. In her view of Kin, she said that she was following them until they said ‘Kin Spot.’ That’s when she lost it, making fun of the name rather than pointing out the usefulness of the feature, which allows the uploading of whatever is dragged onto the spot. Neither Molly nor Tom Merritt knew much about the Kin anyway. They didn’t know, for example, that Windows CE 7 was at the core of the operating system on the devices, they really didn’t understand what the phones were for. I suspect this has more to do with the timing of the podcast and the press event that Microsoft was hosting. I suspect they just didn’t have much time to actually learn anything about the devices.
Most of the good people at Engadget have also poo-poo’ed the devices, criticizing them for what they are not.
I think these people are wrong and here’s why.
The devices are aimed squarely at the 13 to 25 year old market. The majority of these people do not want hand held computers. They want something that is great at texting, good at taking photos and media playing and browsing the internet. Having a device that is also stylish is also desirable. Kin fits the bill nicely. I’m pretty sure this group of people, especially those under 20, don’t care much about playing games or running apps on their phones. They typically will already have a Nintendo or Sony handheld for games. I don’t seem many of the use iPhones, Droids or just about any other smartphones. I do see them using enV’s, LG Rumors and other similar devices. My son has a Rumor and I’ve offered to upgrade his phone to something like a Pre or other Smartphone but he is happy with the Rumor because it does texting easily and isn’t hard to use. I think he’s played the Pac Man demo that was preloaded on the Rumor maybe twice. One of my nephews, who is a video game fanatic, has the enV 2 (or whatever it is called) but doesn’t use it for much more than texting. Several recent visits to local theme parks also proved my point: the majority of the kids had the Rumor, enV’s or one of the Samsung sliders-none of them were smart phones. I think I saw one young adult, maybe 19 years old, with a Blackberry Storm-she was an exception. Most of the kids were either taking photos or texting.
I’m not sure that the Facebook and Twitter integration on the Kin are all that necessary.
I think Microsoft is onto something with these devices. It will, ultimately, come down to price and the manner in which Microsoft and Verizon (Vodafone in Europe) market these devices. If they sell these things for $49 and $99, they will be a hit. If it is $99 and $149, they could be quite popular but any more than that and they will fail. I think $149 is pushing it for most mobile phones, that price point does not seem to bother much of this target audience.
If were 18, I’d want the Kin 2. Since I am much older than that, the devices won’t work for me, but I do think they are interesting and will be successful. I just hope that Microsoft gets a different ad agency than the one who did the weird Bill Gates/Jerry Seinfeld commercials.