Microsoft Announces The Kin

Today Microsoft revealed the fruits of their 2008 acquisition of Danger, makers of the once popular Sidekick smartphone, with the introduction of Kin. Microsoft is classifying the Kin as the “social phone” component of their Windows Phone product line. Unlike Windows Phone 7, which will run on a wide range of hardware and sold by a variety of mobile carriers, the Kin phones are solely manufactured by Sharp and will only be sold by Verizon in the United States. Verizon did not provide a specific shipping date but did say the Kin will be in stores in May. A European version of the Kin will be sold by Vodaphone in the fall. Verizon did not divulge how much the Kin phones will cost or whether they will come with special voice and data plans.

Microsoft is making a significant effort to differentiate the Kin from other smartphones by targetting the Kin at a very specific market, teenagers and young adults. While the iPhone, Android, and even Windows Phone 7 provide a wide range of capabilities to meet a broad market, Kin is designed to do one thing very well, that is to provide users the best mobile experience for social networks. At launch there will not be any third party applications for the Kin, and it comes with e-mail, text messaging, and web browsing apps. The Kin will include the Zune music player software and will work with Zune Pass subscriptions to stream music, though will you also be able to load music from computers running Windows and OS X.

Rather than provide Facebook or Twitter apps, Kin brings Facebook and Twitter’s social stream right on to the home screen, or what Microsoft is calling the Kin Loop. All of a user’s friends statuses and pictures are streamed top to bottom in the Loop. For a better explanation of the Kin Loop, watch the following video:

YouTube video courtesy of Microsoft

Kin aims to make it easy for one to contribute to their social networks by simply dragging and dropping pictures and web pages to the Kin Spot, a circle at the bottom middle of the phone’s screen. All of your data on the Kin is backed up to the web and accessible using the Kin Studio, which has a nice timeline view to show when pictures and other information was captured on the device. All pictures are geotagged so that you can know when and where you took the picture.

Kin 1 phone, image courtesy of Microsoft

Kin phones will be available in two models, the Kin 1, which is a unique, square shaped phone with a slide down keyboard, and the Kin 2, which is the more traditional side slider keyboard phone. The Kin 1 has a 5 megapixel camera and 4 GB of RAM for storage, while the Kin 2 has an 8 megapixel camera and 8 GB of storage. Both phones have capacitive touchscreens and keyboards. In addition to not supporting third party apps, the Kin phones do not support storage cards.

Kin 2 phone, image courtesy of Microsoft