Microsoft, Verizon partner on Kin phones for social networking

Microsoft unveiled two new phones, Kin One and Kin Two, focused on social networking and sharing multimedia. The phones are likely the result of Microsoft's much rumored "Project Pink" initiative.

Microsoft Kin One and Two for Verizon Wireless made by Sharp.The company took the wraps off the phones at event in San Francisco. As expected, the phones are made by Sharp and powered by Verizon Wireless, and will be available in May. Vodafone will launch the devices this fall in Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom. Microsoft did not disclose pricing details. The company said it has no plans to bring the phones to Asian markets.

Robbie Bach, the president of Microsoft's entertainment and devices division, said the gadgets stem from a Microsoft initiative intended to develop phones specifically targeted at young people.

"Windows Phone 7 is about simplifying their lives," he said. "This social phone is about amplifying their lives."

Matt Bencke, general manager at Microsoft, told Engagdet that over time Kin and Windows Phone 7 would share more of each other's DNA. "We're going to share more and more in terms of code," he said.

Microsoft notes that the Kin phones will not offer access to its Windows Phone Marketplace application storefront, nor will consumers be given the latitude to customize which applications are available to them. Instead, Microsoft will push out periodic app updates to all Kin handsets, Microsoft's Roger Snyder told Forbes.

The heart of the Kin experience is the homescreen, called Loop, which is similar in some respects to Motorola's MotoBLUR user interface for its phones based on Google's Android platform. Kin Loop brings together feeds from Microsoft services and social networking services such as Facebook, MySpace and Twitter. Users can prioritize feeds from their favorite friends. A unique interface called Spot allows users to drag videos, photos, text messages, Web pages, location and status updates to a specific area, and then decide who they want to share it with and how.

Microsoft robbie bach kinMicrosoft also introduced a cloud-based storage system, Kin Studio, to complement the phones. Photos and videos from the gadgets are automatically geotagged and uploaded to a cloud-based service that users can access on the Web via a visual timeline. The Studio automatically backs up texts, call history, photos, videos and contacts. The Kin phones also come with music integration from Microsoft's Zune service.

The Kin One is a clamshell phone with a slide-out Qwerty keyboard and a touchscreen display. The phone has a 5-megapixel camera with flash and 4 GB of internal memory. The Kin Two also has a slide-out Qwerty keyboard and touchscreen, and is similar in design to the Sidekick devices made by Microsoft's Danger subsidiary. The Kin Two has an 8-megapixel camera, shoots HD video, and offers stereo speakers and 8 GB of internal memory. Both devices run Nvidia's Tegra processor.

The response from the analyst community seemed to be one of cautious optimism. "Kin is the best thing Microsoft has done in the consumer mobile world and represents a well thought out, well implemented product for an attractive audience segment," said Forrester Research's Charles Golvin. "The decision to call the Kin devices 'Windows Phones,' however, undermines Microsoft's story for developers, who will have to deal with three flavors of Windows Phones going forward."

For more:
- see this release
- see this Forbes article
- see this Microsoft Kin site
- see this Engadget post
- see this IDG News Service article
- see this CNet live blog
- see this IDG News Service article

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