That Was Fast: R.I.P. KIN

According to this story in the Todd Bishop's blog on TechFlash (Seattle), Microsoft has officially stopped marketing the Kin, its brand of mobile phone launched, with much fanfare, a scant six weeks ago. The brief, publicly-released statement from Microsoft said simply:

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 major conclusion to be drawn is that unit sales through Verizon Wireless's channel were so dismal that the phone could not serve as a showcase for Microsoft's "mobile/social" experiment. To review the chronology, Microsoft held a major press event to introduce the world to the Kin, and play up its ability to support search, communications and photo sharing among a social graph that mainly included attractive 18-30 somethings. It was a radical enough effort to differentiate that I sensed a lot of fundamental market research went into quantifying the propensity of that particular demographic to (1) buy a special purpose mobile device and (2) carry out all the hip, participatory activities that are depicted in the Kin's introductory video.

If anything, the failure of Kin and its attendant features and services, proves that you can't manufacture a social graph and you sure can't use that non-existent group to promote sufficient sales of what turned out to be a single-purpose device. Even the Danger Hiptop (aka T-Mobile Sidekick) sought to leverage the addictive nature of text messaging in a new form factor. The Kin, by contrast, seemed to limit the options of a generation of users who like to share their stuff (location, photos, check-ins) on popular services which they pick-and-choose from diverse sources through appstores or browsers.

Let's hope that the product managers for Kin learned what they needed to from the alleged 500 people who bought the device and join the Windows 7 team with the same enthusiasm they had for social/mobile activity. It is an area that is poised to heat up, but cannot be partitioned into a small, self-identifying group of people who happen to own the same device.