Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) unveiled the second prong of its mobile-phone strategy today, and the venue for the announcement, a night club in the obscure design district of San Francisco, speaks volumes about the target consumer.
The project, code-named “Pink,” has been in the works for more than two years since Microsoft purchased Danger, the company known for making the Sidekick, a pop culture icon. Today, the Sidekick is being reborn as the Kin, which is being built by Sharp, and distributed by partners Verizon Wireless and Vodafone (NYSE: VOD). Separately, of course, Microsoft has Windows Phone 7, which was announced in February and is due out later this year. “This is a new deeply social phone that gives people what they want. Windows Phone 7 is about simplifying. This phone is about amplifying our life,” said Robbie Bach, Microsoft’s head of entertainment and devices division.
In a 40-minute event, Microsoft tried to prove that it can create a cool product that could attract a teenage crowd. But neither Microsoft nor Verizon talked about how much the device would cost, which usually trumps functionality among this price-sensitive crowd. Without answers to a lot of questions, it’s hard to see how Microsoft will be able to successfully market the devices separately from Windows Phone, not to mention compete against Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) and Google’s Android, which already have a huge head start. The phones will be in stores in May.
This big problem is that the project, which has been a big mystery for at least two years, is still somewhat shrouded in secrecy. That doesn’t bode well for Microsoft and Verizon as it tries to ramp up hype around the products.
There’s three major concerns:
— The introduction of Kin creates yet another mobile operating system. Will Microsoft publish an SDK so that developers can create applications for the devices, or will it remain a closed device?
— What premium services will be apart of Kin? How much will Zune cost?
— Immediately, a couple of big omissions were spotted on the device. It has no calendar, and some obvious features seem to be missing, like being able to upload photos to Twitter.
The release includes two phones to start, the Kin 1 and the Kin 2, here are some of the features: