Microsoft's Kin phones tie the world together

A streamlined smart phone, Kin specializes in social networking

Microsoft’s Kin phones, unveiled this week, are designed to harness the power of social networking, the company said.

Robbie Bach, president of Microsoft’s entertainment and devices division, said that the company saw an opportunity to design a phone for what he called “the social generation.”

“We built Kin for people who live to be connected, share, express and relate to their friends and family,” Bach said.

Microsoft is offering two versions of the Windows phones. Kin One is smaller and designed for one-handed texting. Kin Two has a wider screen, a larger keyboard and 8G of memory, contrasted with the Kin One, which has 4G available memory.

Both phones have touch screens and cameras, a 5-megapixel one in the Kin One, 8 megapixels for the Kin Two. The Kin Two can also record high definition video, Microsoft said.

Both phones have a home screen called Kin Loop, which pulls together feeds from Facebook, MySpace and Twitter in one place. Kin will also prioritize messages, feeds, status updates and photos from people the user selects as favorites.

Kin phones also make use of cloud computing. Photos, video, text messages, and contacts are automatically backed up into the Kin Studio cloud. Users can access the content from any Web browser. Because everything is stored in the cloud, users will never run out of space, Microsoft said.

Although Microsoft is targeting young consumers with the Kin, federal employees and government contractors could conceivably use the cloud computing features of the phone for storing and sharing photos, videos and other types of multimedia. Kin also offers a timeline and geomapping feature, which lets users check the status, videos, photos and other documents they posted on a certain day from a certain location. This journaling feature might prove useful to government applications that require time-stamps and geotagging, such as disaster aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

While Microsoft did not address the applicability to government, Kin represents yet another case where federal managers will have to analyze the technology and consider developing a policy to address it.

Kin phones also integrate Zune, Microsoft’s music, video, FM radio and podcast service. The phones run on a version of Windows CE.

Kin will be available from Verizon Wireless in the U.S. next month, from Vodafone in the fall in Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom. Microsoft has not yet announced pricing information for the phones.

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About the Author

Trudy Walsh is a senior writer for GCN.


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