Kin's death may signal mobile morbidity at Microsoft

Analysts note Windows Mobile 7 will arrive alongside major BlackBerry update, continued strong sales of iPhone and Android devices

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Gold also called Studio the "best part of Kin" and suggested that Microsoft expand it into a cloud-based hub for storing multimedia across a workgroup or small organization, or among family members -- as more of a competitor to Apple's MobileMe service. "It needs to be positioned as more than a place to put photos," he said.

Microsoft wouldn't comment on the future of its mobile business in general or on the WP7 release plans in particular. The company would only repeat its statement from last week that it is combining the Kin team with the Windows Phone 7 team and focusing on the WP7 launch.

Microsoft noted that the Kin won't be shipping in Europe as planned, and that the company will work with carrier Verizon Wireless in the U.S. to sell out the Kin stock.

The absence of instant messaging and a calendar, as well as an inability to download apps, were big disappointments for users. And Verizon's price tag for Kin's monthly services were the same as what it charged for top-selling smartphones such as the Droid Incredible -- starting at $30 for a data plan and $40 for a voice plan -- even though it lacked such features.

"It seemed like a hard sell, with customers hard-pressed to choose a phone with fewer features at the same monthly cost," said Rosoff.

Verizon defended its monthly pricing today and noted that it is still selling the devices, charging $29.99 for the Kin One and $49.99 for Kin Two. That's a 50% reduction from the prices, after rebate, that it first offered in mid-April.

"We think [the Kin] was priced the way it needed to be," a Verizon spokesman said in an interview. "We still sell it and support it."

The Kins were due for a major software update, possibly adding instant messaging, prior to the decision to kill it, Rosoff said. Verizon is expected to support the phones with Microsoft through the life of each user's contract. Verizon wouldn't say how many were sold, but analyst estimates range from 1,000 to 10,000 -- a tiny fraction of iPhones sales, which number in the millions.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen, or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed . His e-mail address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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