People say that today’s digital world has dramatically shortened the business and product development cycle. But even so, the amount of time it took for Microsoft to pull its Kin social phone off the market – a mere six weeks after its launch – has to be a record, or close to one.
For those who missed this eye-blink of a product introduction, the Kin was supposed to be a major component in Microsoft’s efforts to become a player in the mobile market, in response to the success of Apple’s iPod and iPhone, as well as a variety of new smartphones that are powered by Google’s Android software.
The New York Times has reported that this latest development “is the latest sign of disarray for Microsoft’s recently reorganized consumer products unit.”
Amazingly, for a product that was in development for several years and reportedly represented a resource investment of well over $1 million, Microsoft sold only a relative handful of units during the Kin’s star-crossed six-week introduction. Reports of sales volume vary – from a few thousand units on the upper end to as few as 500 on the low end. Either way, it’s a stunning defeat for a company that up until a short time ago, seemed well on its way to being an important player in the field.
What was Kin’s problem? In a nutshell, consumers didn’t like the product nor the way it was being sold. Verizon, Microsoft’s service provider partner, priced Kin service agreements like a smartphone – at ~$70 per month when combined with the mandated voice plans. But many people felt that the platform was mediocre and didn’t possess anything near the functionality of a smartphone. “A feature phone, not a smartphone,” was the common complaint.
Some people are wondering if there’s a bigger story afoot: whether or not Microsoft is still committed to its Windows Phone 7 platform. It’s fallen so far behind iPhone and Android, what are its chances of success now?
And that’s not all the bad news for Microsoft on the consumer side of the business. Gizmodo is reporting that Microsoft has also cancelled a project to develop its Courier tablet computer that would have competed with the iPad.
This is just the latest in a string of Microsoft consumer initiatives that have basically fallen flat – Money, Encarta, and now the Kin and Courier.
Once, Microsoft would have hung in there for the long haul. It doesn’t seem so today.