Kin questions as Microsoft pulls the plug

So Microsoft has stopped work on its Kin phone and cancelled plans for a European launch:

We have made the decision to focus on our Windows Phone 7 launch and we 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. We will continue to work with Verizon in the U.S. to sell current KIN phones.

The Kin went on sale in May in the US, on Verizon. I’ve never seen a Kin device; but there were several obvious problems:

  • The phones were not that good, according to reports. In perhaps the most competitive technology market that exists, a device has to be exceptional to succeed; and even then it might not. Palm webOS phones are great devices and still not really winners.
  • The Verizon plan was too expensive at $70 per month – a bewildering price for the youth market which was the supposed target.
  • Even if the phones and service had been good, the launch was puzzling in the context of the build-up to Windows Phone 7 later this year.

My initial reaction to Kin was “Whose fault is it?” and there has been no reason to change it.

The whole thing is a tragi-comedy, and joins projects like the Ultra Mobile PC, or Origami, whose failure was baked into the launch – Origami was also too expensive for its market as well as flawed in its design.

Killing the Kin after just a few weeks is embarrassing, but the right decision.

The key question though: what does the costly development, launch, and scrapping of Kin say about Microsoft’s management? If I were a shareholder I’d like to know the answer to that one.

I might also ask why Microsoft is spending big on an advertising campaign to persuade us to become “new busy” when we are already busy enough, for an online service that is mostly not yet launched? I wonder how many potential users took a look at the new Hotmail, observed that it was the same as the old one, and will never come back?

In the case of Kin the company has at least recognized its mistake; but the deeper problem is an accident-prone culture that is damaging Microsoft’s prospects.

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