Microsoft kicks the Kin to the curb

The newly released Kin phone is an attempt by Microsoft to kick-start its struggling mobile business. But with the launch, Microsoft seems to have kicked the business, not kick-started it. The latest blunder is the Kin monthly pricing plan, which appears to price Microsoft's target audience right out of the market. What was Microsoft thinking when it launched this ill-begotten device?

The Kin is aimed at young people --- mainly young women and girls, it appears --- who use their phones primarily for social networking. It's aimed squarely at teens, tweens, and those in their early twenties. But monthly pricing plans are for those with far deeper pockets, and will put the phone well beyond the reach of people in Microsoft's target market

The phone is available starting today online from Verizon, and will be available in stores on May 13. Pricing shows that if you want to keep in touch with friends and others, it's going to cost you a pretty penny. The Microsoft press release announcing the phone notes that the monthly pricing for the phone starts at just about $70 per month -- $39.99 for the line and voice access, and $29.99 for unlimited email and Web access. Given that the phone is designed for social networking and email, anyone buying it will need both types of service.

That's a hefty fee for a young audience, and that, no doubt, will seriously limit the potential market for it.

Even before monthly pricing was unveiled, many people were underwhelmed with the Kin's future. As I point out in my blog, Five reasons you don't want a Microsoft Kin, the phone doesn't support apps, has poor Twitter support, and doesn't even support calendar sharing. This from a phone that is designed primarily for social networking? It makes no sense.

So far, the Kin has led a very un-charmed life. Recently, Microsoft had to pull a video for the phone from the Web because critics said it promoted sexting among the under-18 set.

Initial reviews of the phone have been less-than-complimentary, and fault it for lacking basic features, being far less powerful and useful than a simple smartphone, and being too expensive. Endgadget says in its review:

To offer what is clearly so much less than a smartphone with a smartphone data plan is insulting to consumers, and doubly insulting considering who it looks like these phones are aimed at. If you're going to shell out this kind of money each month, it would be foolish to even consider these devices given the much, much better options out there....the idea of choosing this severely limited device which doesn't do a single thing better than even the most basic Android device is kind of crazy.

For less money than the $49.99 and $99.99 pricetags for the two versions of the phone, you can buy much more powerful smartphones, including the Pre Plus. And for not much more, you can get a nifty Android device.

Microsoft won't be unveiling the Windows Phone 7 until the holiday season, but by then, it may be too little, too late for Microsoft. The iPhone continues to gain in popularity and Android-based devices are selling like hotcakes. As for the Kin, it won't sink slowly into the sunset -- instead, expect it to drop like a stone.

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