Entelligence is a column by technology strategist and author Michael Gartenberg, a man whose desire for a delicious cup of coffee and a quality New York bagel is dwarfed only by his passion for tech. In these articles, he'll explore where our industry is and where it's going -- on both micro and macro levels -- with the unique wit and insight only he can provide.
It has been a project shrouded in mystery and speculation that sparked imaginations about just what Microsoft was doing. Its codename was Pink, referring to the premium mobile experience group, and yesterday Microsoft finally revealed its Pink story. It's called Kin and it's pretty impressive. At its heart, Kin is centered around two devices called Kin One and Kin Two. Both the hardware and software were designed by Microsoft, and while Kin is a Microsoft brand, Microsoft is still not getting into the phone business. Built in conjunction with carrier partner Verizon, Pink is an extension of the company's mobile strategy, something that complements and co-exists with its larger ambitions with Windows Phone 7.
In many ways, Kin is the extension and spiritual descendant of the Sidekick (which was a product of Danger, founded by the father of Android, Andy Rubin, and later acquired by Microsoft). At its core, the Kin philosophy is guided by the proposition that one size device doesn't fit all, and specific demographics have different mobile needs.
Kin is not designed as a horizontal platform like Android, iPhone or even Windows Phone 7. It's targeted at a younger demographic with an emphasis on social communicators. Its feature set isn't designed for the mass market and that's exactly what might make it a success. To me, there are three important take aways.
First, mature platforms and markets fragment. This is true of just about all markets. There are features, designs and other factors that all target different users and demographics. It's something that's just starting to happen in the mobile space and Microsoft is wise to get ahead of this curve. If one-size-fit all, and the only focus was on utilitarian functions we'd all drive Honda Civics, wear Timex watches and use BIC pens. We don't -- and the reasons that we don't are what make Kin look very attractive.
"Few devices embody the intersection of mobile and social networks as well as Kin One and Kin Two do."
Finally, the intersection of mobile and social networks is here. Few devices embody the intersection of mobile and social networks as well as Kin One and Kin Two do. The ability to tie networks together into a cohesive universal view in a way that's not cluttered or look like a user experience suffering from attention deficit disorder is a breakthrough. The result is a new type of user that's able to move from communication to collaboration, and extend that conversation from one-to-one to one-to-many. The implications are huge as the social interactions create trusted and real time information flows that are contextually relevant. The net result? A new type of user that is empowered to make fewer mistakes, creating a larger global and social memory that can be tapped into anytime and anywhere.
Kin shows Microsoft is taking mobile seriously. As a complement to Windows Phone 7, it's a bold move to capture the thought and leadership for an important demographic. By creating a new user experience centered around social communication and interaction beyond voice or even text messages, Microsoft has upped the stakes in mobility and raised the bar for the next generation of devices and leveraged platforms.