Commentary

Return Of The Kin?

kinNo, there's not a "g" missing from the last word in the above headline. Reports surfacing late last week raised the unlikely prospect of Verizon Wireless and Microsoft bringing back the ill-fated Kin device in time for the holidays. The social networking-centric phones aimed at young hipsters were on the market for less than two months before getting the kibosh from Microsoft because of anemic sales. So a little tinsel and seasonal spirit will breathe new life into the handset line?

If the rumor originating with blog PPCGeeks is correct, it sounds like Microsoft wants to unload remaining inventory of the Kin One and Two models left over from pulling the phones just before their international launch. But it's hard to see what benefit the software giant can gain from reintroducing a product that bombed only months ago. It's clearly too soon for the Kin to be a collector's item.

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And the move would remind everyone of the embarrassment the phone proved for Microsoft, just as the company is trying to get back into the smartphone race with the launch of the first Windows Phone 7 devices. The Kin didn't run Windows Phone 7, but as a forerunner to the release of its upgraded mobile platform, it didn't exactly inspire confidence.

One possibility suggested by PPCGeeks is that the Kin will make a comeback, but without the $30 data plan that many analysts cited as a barrier to attracting the youthful demographic the phone was aimed at. But even if that amount was lowered, it seems more likely consumers would buy a Windows Phone 7 device or another full-featured smartphone. The Kin's lack of support for apps was viewed as one of its biggest drawbacks.

Verizon also tried slashing the prices of the Kin phones themselves a month after launch, to little effect. How much a relaunched Kin would get in marketing support from the carrier or Microsoft is also questionable, as noted by CNet's Josh Lowensohn. The huge ad blitz now is behind Windows Phone 7.

Has any other mobile device, or any product for that matter, been successfully revived so soon after a disastrous debut? Even Conan lasted seven months as a "Tonight Show" host. The jury's still out on his return.

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