Windows Phone

Microsoft unveils KIN: Will users like this all-cloud, no-apps approach?

Microsoft has unveiled KIN ONE and KIN TWO, devices that take advantage of social networking integration yet lack third-party apps. Do you think KIN will deliver well enough for users to overlook the lack of apps?

A month or so since Microsoft announced Windows Phone 7 (which will replace its Windows Mobile platform), the company has unveiled  KIN (previously codenamed Pink). The OS, which is based on Windows Phone 7, is a completely new experience. Robbie Bach, the President of Entertainment and Devices at Microsoft, said that the devices represent "the true kinship between people and technology."

The software

At first glance, the UI on KIN handsets looks sort of like the early demos of Windows Phone 7, but it is definitely something different when you take a closer look. The main reasons are what Microsoft calls Loop and Spot.

The home screen in the KIN interface, which is referred to as Loop, is an aggregation of all of your social media updates from across your favorite social networks such as Facebook and Twitter. Each update is represented by a big photo block (it's a bit similar to the tiles in the Windows Phone 7 interface), showing your friend's photo and their latest status update. And, instead of just being the latest updates in chronological order, Loop promises to prioritize these updates by the people you interact with most.

Spot is an omni-present green dot at the bottom of the KIN screen. Spot makes it easy to share information from just about anywhere in the interface. For example, if you see a photo you would like to share with your friends, just drag it over Spot. From there, you can select which friends to share the photo with by using the same technique -- simply drag your friend's photo from your contacts list over Spot.

Another big difference from Windows Phone 7 and the other major smartphone platforms is that KIN doesn't support third-party apps. Microsoft chose to skip the hottest trend in mobile in favor of providing seamless integration of your social content. It's a risky move in a world where iPhone app commercials have become commonplace.

By choosing to go app-free, the KIN depends entirely on the cloud to retrieve all of your social updates and store all of your social content -- that means your Loop content is always up-to-date. It also means that onboard storage isn't really an issue since the KIN will pump your photos and other content directly into the cloud as well.

The one area where KIN and Windows Phone 7 are similar is in how they handle media playback. The KIN, like Windows Phone 7, uses a UI based on the Zune HD.

You can see the KIN software in action in this ZDNet video.

The hardware

It is clear that Microsoft spent a lot of time creating a unique software experience to the KIN. I guess they figured they didn't have to worry as much about the name of the hardware.

The device formerly known by the codename Turtle is now KIN ONE. Looking at its small, round case, it is easy to see where the codename came from. Here are the specs:

  • QVGA display
  • QWERTY slider keyboard
  • 4 GB of internal storage
  • 5 megapixel camera with flash
  • Wi-Fi
  • Bluetooth

The device formerly know by the codename Pure is now KIN TWO. It has a much more traditional form factor than the rounded KIN ONE. Here are the specs:

  • HVGA display
  • QWERTY slider keyboard
  • 8 megapixel camera with flash
  • 8 GB of internal storage
  • Wi-Fi
  • Bluetooth

The bottom line

While you won't be seeing KIN devices showing up in the enterprise, I think Microsoft's all-cloud, no-app approach is interesting. Microsoft has created a device that lacks the hottest trend in the industry (third-party apps) while still taking advantage of the integration of social networking. The question is whether KIN will deliver well enough for users to overlook that lack of apps.

Additional resources about KIN

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21 comments
boxfiddler
boxfiddler

Whoa. I'm not even interested in being that much online.

gueibor
gueibor

Maybe I'm getting old, but I couldn't read past "social networks". Those words automatically drop my relevance-meter to minus 10.

Calcom Tech
Calcom Tech

If it doesn't support third party apps, then which market segment are they looking to attack? It doesn't seem like it will help in the business world at all.

The 'G-Man.'
The 'G-Man.'

there is not a dataplan that will allow good use from any mobile operator. They all cap the connection.

richara2
richara2

Does the voice calls work like normal cell calls or does it work with VOIP?

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

Super W A N K E R phone. No thanks, I won't be buying one - ever.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

or a social networking device? It appears to be aimed at those who regard on-line presence as a priority over other features.

sar10538
sar10538

don't have a life. Now they can buy one from Microsoft.

david.hunt
david.hunt

...and what a sad little life it will be. As they say on one of our current TV advertisements... "...That's not livin." It then advocates gettin out into the outdoors and persuing active interests, aligned with the advertiser's business. I came to this blog from a link in another one.... Yawn!

adakar_sg
adakar_sg

Next up! A GPS tracker that tells everyone where you are at all times directly connected to facebook, will update your stats for every 10 feet of movement, will automatically also mention what devices or important objects are within your proximity! But that's not all! It will call everyone whom have been offline from facebook for over two hours to give an automated update upon your activities! .. just me or do people in general do far to few interesting things to update facebook more than once a day?

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

to work hard at putting your idea into practice. As to Farcebook, hell I check it once a fortnight, as 997 of every 1,000 post on it are pure BS that I don't need to know. I have absolutely no interest in how people are doing in the Idiot War games and their various Ville games. I update my profile about once every year or two, and that's more than enough for most things. When I die, my son will sign on and tell everyone with a message on the wall, but something has to be almost that level to be worth my time to put up.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

After a one-week trial, I found I wasn't posting anything even I was interested in reading. Maybe I'm just a boring person, or maybe I'd rather do things than post about them.

jck
jck

I am about to quit Facebook. It bores the hell out of me knowing what a lot of people are thinking/doing that...to be quite honest...I really don't give a $hi+ about.

maclovin
maclovin

"...the true kinship bet-"....WTF!!!! Okay. So, let me get this straight: a device that has an OS that is based upon the OS of their mobile phone platform.... Sounds so much like something that just happened recently that was released by some other company (a fruit could be involved)..... Anyway, this looks to be a complete MESS, in general, as most MS options prove to be.

adakar_sg
adakar_sg

Found it to look quite messy, items everywhere, looks kinda like when you had that one user that saved absolutely everything to the desktop in windows..

sar10538
sar10538

someone vomited over it!

jck
jck

Sloppy design. Slow interface response. Slow data display/recall. Not nearly as nice, neat and organized as an iPhone. I won't buy either one.

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