Who killed the Kin?

After 48 days of courting teens with a device built for social networking, Microsoft killed the Kin mobile phone this week due to poor sales.  The product included an innovative feature which aggregates content from various social networks in one hub, but received complaints from some users for lacking instant messaging, easy access to apps, or the ability to upload photo and video to Twitter.

Although the online and television campaigns for the Kin captured the youthful energy of the demographic it pursued, there were bumps along the road.  Microsoft got flack from conservatives for a lighthearted scene in one of its Kin commercials, a clip of a male teen taking a photo under his shirt and sending it to a female who laughs when she receives it.  Although seemingly benign, the scene was deemed by some as an endorsement of teen sexting.

In the bigger picture, the Kin is a small growing pain in Microsoft’s path to reinvention.  Although known primarily as a maker of dependable and perhaps  “unsexy” computing products, Microsoft is determined not to cede the ground of cool computing to Apple and Google.  The good news is that they have money to spend on a couple of experiments while they pursue that goal.  Reinventions are seldom quick and easy, and it is also likely that The Kin’s better features will resurface in improved Microsoft products in the near future.

Despite the setback, it was a wise and bold decision for Microsoft to see the writing on the wall and pull the plug on Kin before incurring similar losses on a forthcoming European launch.  It also sounds like the company is up to some impressive computing breakthroughs on 3-D that could impact both the television and mobile markets in the coming years.  Let’s hope they combine those innovations with the Kin’s social networking aggregation into a cutting edge phone that hits the market in the next year or two.