Microsoft's Kin phones - The top wireless turkeys of 2010

Microsoft kin one and two turkeysWhy is it a turkey? Perhaps no product launch this year epitomized poor marketing and execution more than Microsoft's Kin phones, which were focused on social networking and aimed at teens and young adults.

The Kin phones were whispered about as far back as 2008, under the codename "project Pink." The phones used technology from Microsoft's acquisition of Danger, the company that brought the Sidekick to T-Mobile USA.

After a long buildup of rumors and speculation, on April 12 Microsoft unveiled the Kin One and Kin Two, both made by Sharp.

The heart of the Kin experience was the homescreen, called Loop, which was similar in some respects to Motorola's (NYSE:MOT) MotoBLUR user interface. Kin Loop brought together feeds from Microsoft services and social networking services such as Facebook, MySpace and Twitter. Microsoft also introduced a cloud-based storage system, Kin Studio, to complement the phones. Photos and videos from the gadgets would automatically be geotagged and uploaded to a cloud-based service that users could access on the Web via a visual timeline. The Studio automatically backed up texts, call history, photos, videos and contacts.

In May, Verizon Wireless launched the Kin One for $49.99 and the higher-powered Kin Two for $99.99--both with a two-year contract and after a $100 mail-in rebate. Importantly, even though the phones were not technically smartphones, Verizon made customers purchase a $30 per month data plan with the gadgets.

Microsoft didn't do itself any favors with the launch. The company said Kin phones would not offer access to its Windows Phone Marketplace application storefront, nor would consumers be given the latitude to customize their applications. Microsoft also unveiled a series of awkward TV ads for the phones that did little to explain their utility.

By late June, Verizon had cut the price on the Kin One down to $29.99 and on the Kin Two down to $49.99.

On June 30, Microsoft pulled the plug on the project. Post-mortems would try to make sense of the debacle, but there was plenty of blame to go around: the blurring of the line between feature phones and smartphones (highlighted by Verizon's smartphone-style data plans); a lack of enthusiasm internally at Microsoft for the project, when many were focused on Windows Phone 7; and a target demographic that never really got what the product was all about.

In short, a turkey.

Microsoft's Kin phones - The top wireless turkeys of 2010
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