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Microsoft looks to KIN for support

Desperation or shelf-clearing?

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A leaked Verizon product list shows Microsoft's Kin isn't dead, it's just been sleeping a while and will return as a cheapy feature-phone later this year – only without the good bits.

That means none of the cloud services that were supposed to justify the huge monthly contract Kin users were expected to pay (put at $70 a month by Electronista's figures), but it's also not a sign that Windows Phone 7 is failing so badly that Microsoft feels compelled to dust off its earlier failures.

By any metric, the Kin was an unmitigated failure - selling only around 9,000 during its short life. The pair of Kin handsets were supposed to succeed Danger's Sidekick in bringing cloud-computing to the youth hanging on the corner, but failed spectacularly to catch the imagination and quickly disappeared as Windows Phone 7 took the limelight.

Now the two handsets have reappeared in a Verizon road map leaked to PPCGeeks. The handsets are listed as suitable for "Young Adults/Teens", but with no mention of the cloud services that were supposed to differentiate the Kin platform beyond compatibility with Microsoft's Zune software.

It has been suggested that this is in some way related to the catastrophic failure of Windows Phone 7 in America, and this very morning we received several emails directing us to research by the Boy Genius blog that (according to our tipsters) "proves Windows Phone 7 sales have tanked". Boy Genius makes no such claim of course. The blog phoned 15 stores about half of whom said the handsets were selling OK, the other half having sold no more than a handful. So product is not flying off the shelves, but still not the embarrassment the blogosphere is so desperate to see.

More likely this is down to Microsoft having a warehouse full of Kin handsets that no one wants. It is highly unlikely that the company only made 9,000 of the things, and selling them as feature phones is cheaper than dumping them in a landfill, so what we might have here is a company clearing stock of a failed product by selling it off cheap.

When RIM arrived in the UK, O2 ordered millions of BlackBerry devices it couldn't shift, and ended up running quarter-page adverts in the FT offering to send 10 BlackBerrys to anyone who asked. Such things are an embarrassing reminder of a past failure, but nothing more than that. ®

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