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Microsoft: “Yesterday’s Technology Tomorrow!”

Leave it to Microsoft to keep innovating in the dark as if their development labs were built from left-over bits of Rupe Goldberg's yard sale. Microsoft has an unparalleled knack for bringing out new products that underperfom in every meaningful way, and which then promptly sink like a rock. The latest stillborn creation is the "Kin". Never heard of it? Of course you haven't. And you never will.

Just six weeks after its excruciatingly long delay in being released, Microsoft announced that Kin phones will no longer be sold in the U.S., and also stated that plans for a European release later this fall have been scrapped. That's right, six weeks. I've had hickeys that lasted longer than that. This is a world-class screwup by Microsoft, and it comes at a time when they really need to look like they have some viable plan for the mobile marketplace. But they don't. They aren't even close.

PC Magazine has an article on how Microsoft's "Kin", a dumbphone with a smartphone's pricing plan, is dead on the vine. With all the traction of wet ice on wet ice, the Kin will join such great products like Microsoft Bob and the Zune in the dustbin of history. (To be fair, the Zune did sell almost a dozen units worldwide before being declared "uncool" by nearly every potential buyer in North America.)

Remember Plays4Sure? It was Microsoft's DRM-infested answer to the iTunes store. It was lame, but it almost worked. In fact, several music manufacturers were starting to support it, but then Microsoft came out with the Zune which by design didn't use PlaysForSure at all. Instead, it had its own marketplace, which was awful. Good job on undercutting your own product, guys.

Anyway, back to the Kin. Microsoft poured literally millions of research and advertising dollars into what was supposed to be a major product, and then pulled it siz weeks after release. This is what we in the industry refer to as a sign of intolerably pathetic planning, complete lack of focus, and insanely wasteful spending

All in all, the Kin just wasn't a good product. Despite being marketed as a "social phone", it was missing numerous important social features:

  •  No apps or app store, ensuring that there would never be anything interesting run on it
  •  No calendar and no way to sync to a calendar (because no one uses a calendar these days, right?)
  •  No IM client even, though the firmware would actually have supported AOL IM, MS IM, and Yahoo IM
  •  No spelling correction or corrective text (as if anyone would want that!)
  •  No expansion slots, zip, nada, none. Hey, 64K ought to be enough for anyone.
  •  It only synced contacts with Facebook and Hotmail directly (but not with Yahoo or Gmail, because no one uses Yahoo or Gmail)

Makes you want to run right out and buy one, doesn't it? The Kin seems like it was more of a half-baked marketing fantasy than anything else. It was supposed to be Microsoft's attempt to woo the Facebook generation, but no one bought it. Literally.

And the marketing was, well, spooky and bad. The Kin ads showed a guy shooting pictures of his ex-girlfriend? Another ad showed some idiot taking a picture of his own nipple and then sending it to some woman. That's stupid, bizarre, and….creepy. There go the women who might have bought your wonder-gadget. And the flip side is that the message that it sends to men is, "Guys who have a Kin are weirdos and losers!" Poof-  there goes the market for men. The only demographic left to buy it are household pets, and (possibly), stalkers.

Microsoft seems to be making a lot of big announcements of new products and then dumping them, as if they realize they can't compete but they just can't stop themselves. Playing "follow the leader" is now Microsoft's mission statement, apparently, and the Kin is just the most recent example.

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