More than 24 hours have passed since Microsoft announced the Kin, and there is now a fair amount of commentary from the gadget blogs regarding whether or not the Kin will be a success. I have decided to not form a personal opinion about the phones because I know that I am not the type of person that Microsoft expects to buy the Kin. What I do know is that a lot of people are using their smartphones to access social networks, and they really don’t use the phone for much more than that, e-mail, text messaging, and oh yes, making and receiving phone calls. I am entirely in agreement with James Kendrick that the key to the Kin’s success will be price. If Verizon were to sell the Kin 1 for around $100 I think it would be very appealing to a lot of parents who don’t want to buy expensive smartphones for their children, and affordable for kids to get them on their own.
You can laugh at the name of the device and the Kin Loop and Kin Spot, but I personally applaud Microsoft for trying something different. The current world of “me-too” smartphones, all trying to out-iPhone the iPhone is boring and not innovative. If anything, Kin is to social networking as Blackberry is to e-mail, and if the Kin is as successful as the Blackberry I am sure Microsoft will be very happy. Yet, Kin might not succeed because it is not following the same formula that has brought Apple success with the iPhone, and for that I am happy to see Microsoft willing to take a risk.
I also get the sense from reading articles like this one on Gizmodo that Microsoft has put a lot of thought into Kin, and anticipated the obvious questions, such as, how does the Kin fit with a mobile strategy that includes Windows Phone 7? I will point out, though, that Microsoft’s message of not one device fits all is not new, they were saying the same thing when selling Windows Mobile Smartphones, Pocket PC Phone Editions, and Pocket PCs. What makes Kin different is that it is much more specialized to one task than the Windows Mobile Smartphone.
Michael Gartenberger writes that mature markets and platforms fragment, otherwise as he says, “we’d all drive Honda Civics, wear Timex watches and use BIC pens.” The question is, has the smartphone market matured? I am not so sure. I feel that there needs to be some consolidation in the smartphone market because I don’t think that five or six different platforms can survive, just as at one time there were many more automobile manufacturers than there are today. What may be interesting is to see whether in five years from now both Windows Phone X and Kin are still around.