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Will Microsoft learn its lesson from Kin?



By now you’ve probably heard that Kin, the phone from Microsoft you almost certainly don’t own, is being discontinued and the Kin team is being incorporated into the Windows Phone 7 team. Sadly, I’m not sure they or most others are walking away with the critical lesson here.

I think we can all agree Kin was never going to be a runaway success. The capabilities of the phone were intentionally limited. The service pricing was at smartphone levels for a phone that wasn’t a smartphone. Even the low upfront pricing could be matched by deals on yesterday’s smartphones. The best one could hope is to find a niche and dig in. Of course, a niche in a multi-billion dollar market can still be highly profitable… unless you squander your budget on a massive off-target marketing campaign.

Think of phones as movies. There are big budget blockbusters, like iPhone, and there are also small budget films aimed at smaller audiences, like Kin. These smaller films can’t afford big ad campaigns, nor should they. Films like these thrive on word-of-mouth and targeted advertising. That’s the type of campaign Microsoft should have pursued. They should have gone entirely viral, signed up some prominent social networkers, put their advertising money toward subsidizing giveaways to people who would use Kin as their social hub, etc. Instead, they dropped a ton of cash on a television, Internet, print and radio blitz that reached far beyond their target yet didn’t really connect with it. Not only was that the wrong type of campaign, but it looks horrifying on a balance sheet. Low sales can be stomached. Low sales unmoved by a massive ad campaign is a deal killer.

So now Microsoft is dropping Kin and moving its resources to Windows Phone 7. But will they bring with them the lessons from Kin or will they just repeat the same mistakes?



  1. Chris Hickie

    07/01/2010 at 12:47 pm

    The TV ad where the guy kept taking pictures of his annoyed ex girlfriend and posting them up on his kin website and then taking them down was horribly annoying. Just the thought that the ad execs believed they would reach people this way made me lose any interest I had in this phone.

  2. Mark

    07/01/2010 at 1:33 pm

    Yeah, it was really poor marketing. The commercial seemed to aim squarely at people like my son. He has no money and relies on me to get him a phone and sign him up with a plan and the phone I bought him is an iPhone because it’s capable and understandable and the same phone I use so if there’s a problem, chances are I have or can find a solution. I was wondering how long Microsoft would let this twist in the wind before killing it. I wonder if it was ever meant to be a serious product or merely a toe in the water before going all out with WinMo 7?

  3. Real Estate Attorney

    07/01/2010 at 2:56 pm

    Good try..but just too expensive for teenagers as a social networking phone

  4. acerbic

    07/01/2010 at 7:26 pm

    It looks like a classical example of throwing good money after bad: they made the mistake of buying the Sidekick maker and then they just had to do something, anything with what they bought so the money wouldn’t be wasted, using resources that could have been used for improving the Windows Phone 7.

    HP is going to do it too: try prove that buying Palm was a really good move by shoehorning webOS into everything whether it really fits or not, neglecting Windows hardware development and it will end badly.

  5. Stuart

    07/01/2010 at 7:30 pm

    The Kin was a horrific failure from the start. A social networking phone with facebook and instant messaging. Not targeting the right group–prepaid users such as Boost, or Virgin Mobile or Sidekick. That way a kid could buy it and not need a credit check or being tied into a plan. Rumor has it their relationship with Verizon is strained over this and if there is no WP7 on Verizon at launch, it will be real hard for them. AT&T is already Apple country and they won’t let Microsoft in…or won’t give them as good a deal as the iPhone exclusivity so that leaves Sprint and T-Mobile for them to try and make deals with.

  6. rainman

    07/02/2010 at 5:49 am

    after watching microsoft botch marketing attempts repeatedly over the last 15 yrs, I am guessing they’ll blow it for winmo7 once again

  7. Jan

    07/02/2010 at 10:21 am

    Total failure on MS side.
    Working years on something so unexciting as Kin and scrapping instead a project of the Courier for which was so much buzz on net and lots of people were excited about.
    Well done MS you got it perfectly other way around!

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