Microsoft Kills Kin to Save Windows Phone 7

Microsoft Wednesday abruptly announced that despite its rollout only a few weeks ago, the Kin fun phone for kids and light phone users is dead.

Beyond sparking wry jokes about notifying "next of Kin," Microsoft's (NASDAQ: MSFT) move is clearly meant to bring the focus of its mobile strategy -- for users, analysts, and IT staff -- to bear exclusively on the yet-to-be-delivered Windows Phone 7.

"Microsoft has made the decision to focus on the Windows Phone 7 launch and will not ship Kin in Europe this fall as planned. Additionally, we are integrating our Kin team with the Windows Phone 7 team, incorporating valuable ideas and technologies from Kin into future Windows Phone releases," a Microsoft spokesperson said in an e-mail to InternetNews.com.

"We will continue to work with Verizon in the U.S. to sell current Kin phones," the statement continued.

The Kin One and Kin Two just began selling to consumers through Verizon Wireless seven weeks ago.

The move to kill off Kin is not entirely without precedent. After all, Microsoft announced in late April that it was killing its Courier double-screen tablet computer without ever having previously admitted its existence.

Perhaps ironically, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) just granted a patent to Microsoft on the double-screen device on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Microsoft's latest moves appear to be an indication that Microsoft's sole focus in the mobile market going forward will be Windows Phone 7, which CEO Steve Ballmer proudly introduced at the Mobile World Conference in Barcelona, Spain in mid-February.

Windows Phone 7 is scheduled to be available to handset makers this summer and available for sale to consumers and business users in October. Microsoft has said its aging Windows Mobile 6.x operating system which will not be able to run apps written for Windows Phone 7, leaving the older OS to be sunsetted over the next year or two.

"This [killing Kin] will put more clarity around what has been a fragmented mobile operating system strategy to this point," Maribel Lopez, principal analyst at Lopez Research, told InternetNews.com.

"The real issue is for them to execute on Windows Phone 7," she added.

However, a big question remaining in Lopez's mind is whether or not Microsoft's new focus will be enough. Will it be able to roll out updates to Windows Phone 7 at the same kind of pace as competitors such as Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) does with its iPhone and Google's (NASDAQ: GOOG) Android.

"Android has lots of holes, but they've had four updates in 12 months. If Microsoft doesn't have an update within six months [of Windows Phone 7's] release, they'll be behind again," Lopez said.

Stuart J. Johnston is a contributing writer at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals. Follow him on Twitter @stuartj1000.


Microsoft, Windows Phone 7, Kin