Microsoft’s acquisition of Danger in February of 2008 renewed interest in the languishing mobile operating system formerly known as Windows Mobile. Many enthusiasts (aka fanboys) and pundits alike speculated and pontificated about Microsoft’s plans for the tiny Bay Area company behind the successful Hiptop OS/device aka Sidekick. But nothing really ever came of it. Another Sharp produced Sidekick hit the market with integrated Live search and little else. I stopped caring shortly after and gave up on Danger altogether.
But then rumors started swirling about something new brewing in Redmond called Project Pink. There weren’t very many cold, hard facts, but Gizmodo obtained the first images of two purported Project Pink devices in September of ‘09. They looked like the Sidekick and everyone assumed they would supplant the Sidekick. But just as quickly as those images had surfaced, Gizmodo had been tipped off later on in the year that the project had been scrapped. I poked and prodded for details to no avail.
Shortly before MWC I got a call about meeting with Microsoft to talk about something new and exciting. It wasn’t science of the rockets or anything, I knew I’d be seeing Windows Phone 7, but not Project Pink or should I say Kin. Today in San Francisco, Microsoft revealed what we’ve all known or claimed to have known about: Kin. Two devices, the Kin One and Kin Two, will launch this spring with Verizon.
I’ve had two brief encounters with the Kin devices and they’re starting to grow on me. The interface is pretty straightforward with three screens: The Loop, Apps and Favorites. All matter of social networking information can be pulled down including Facebook, Twitter, e-mail, etc.
The Loop is your homepage and pulls in streams of updates from RSS feeds, your favorites (aka favorite contacts) and a sprinkling of other’s news feeds. What’s incredibly unique about Kin is the “Spot,” which resides at the bottom of the Loop and is where you can share things with any or all your contacts. It’s literally a little dot at the bottom of the screen. Let’s say, for example, you want to share a link to an article or an image. Long press on the URL (or whatever it is) and drag it down to the Spot. Add the friends you want to share it with and that’s just about the only thing you have to do. The Apps page houses things like settings, web page shortcuts, e-mail, messages, contacts, etc. The Favorites page is more or less a shortcut your favorite contacts and it dynamicly pulls in their latest profile picture.
But there’s also something called the Studio, which is a desktop client for Kin devices. It actually sounds really cool. Most everything on either Kin device is stored in the cloud. Photos are automatically synced with Studio and moved off the device as space is needed. If you can’t find your Kin then you can jump onto Studio to see your text messages and/or e-mails. It even takes into account dates and location for a visual timeline of your photos, videos, messages, etc. It’s without a doubt the most impressive facet of Kin.
On the hardware front, Sharp has been tasked with producing both QWERTY devices. The Kin Two sports an 8-megapixel camera (HD video), Nvidia Tegra proc, 8GB of internal storage, 480×320 touch-screen and stereo speakers. The Kin One has a 5-megapixel camera (SD video), mono speaker and 4GB of internal memory. Both devices have enough juice to last you from Friday night to Sunday afternoon. There’s even full Zune integration including Zune Pass and 3G streaming.
The Kin One and Kin Two ship next month to Verizon. Vodafone will carry both devices this fall in Europe.
REDMOND, Wash. — April 12, 2010 — Microsoft Corp. today announced KIN, a new Windows® Phone designed specifically for people who are actively navigating their social lives. Brought to life through partnerships with Verizon Wireless, Vodafone and Sharp Corporation, KIN is designed to be the ultimate social experience that blends the phone, online services and the PC with breakthrough new experiences called the Loop, Spot and Studio. KIN will be exclusively available from Verizon Wireless in the U.S. beginning in May and from Vodafone this autumn in Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom.
“Working closely with our partners, we saw an opportunity to design a mobile experience just for this social generation — a phone that makes it easy to share your life moment to moment,” said Robbie Bach, president of the Entertainment and Devices Division at Microsoft. “We built KIN for people who live to be connected, share, express and relate to their friends and family. This social generation wants and needs more from their phone. KIN is the one place to get the stuff you care about to the people you care about most.”
A New Kind of Social Phone
With KIN, social networking is built into the fabric of the phone. KIN has a fun, simple interface, which is designed to help people publish the magazine of their life by making the people and stuff they love the focus rather than menus and icons. The unique hardware design was developed in partnership with Sharp to create a new kind of social phone. There are two models called KIN ONE and KIN TWO. Both phones feature a touch screen and slide-out keyboard. ONE is small and compact, making it a perfect fit for a pocket and to operate with one hand. TWO has a larger screen and keyboard, in addition to more memory, a higher resolution camera, and the ability to record high-definition video. The 5 and 8 megapixel cameras in ONE and TWO, respectively, are designed for use in low light with image stabilization and a bright LumiLED flash.
The New Way to Share
The home screen of the phone is called the KIN Loop, which is always up to date and always on, showing all the things happening in someone’s social world. KIN automatically brings together feeds from leading Microsoft and third-party services such as Facebook, MySpace and Twitter all in one place, making it easier to stay connected. Customers can also select their favorite people, and KIN will automatically prioritize their status updates, messages, feeds and photos. Another unique feature, the KIN Spot is a new way for people to share what’s going on in their world. It lets them focus first on the people and stuff they want to share rather than the specific application they want to use. Videos, photos, text messages, Web pages, location and status updates are shared by simply dragging them to a single place on the phone called the Spot. Once all the people and content are in the Spot to share, the consumer can choose how to share, and start broadcasting.
Your Phone, on the Web
KIN Studio is your phone online. Almost everything created on the phone is available in the cloud from any Web browser. Photos and videos are freed from the confines of the phone and presented in an online visual timeline so they are easy to view and share. The KIN Studio automatically backs up texts, call history, photos, videos and contacts, and populates a personalized digital journal so it’s easy to go back in time to relive a crazy weekend or recent birthday. And the KIN Studio gives customers tons of storage to keep all those photos, videos, contacts and texts so they’ll never run out of space on their phone and lose a memory.
Music and More
KIN will be the first Windows Phone to feature a Zune experience — including music, video, FM radio and podcast playback. With a Zune Pass subscription, customers using Zune software on their PC can listen to millions of songs from Zune Marketplace on their KIN while on the go, or load their personal collection. KIN also has other features customers want in a phone including a rich browser with the ability to share pieces of the Web, local and Web search by Bing, and an RSS feed reader to pull down information on people and stories from the Web.