The Microsoft Kin: The Blue Collar Phone
Often those of us who live with technology get excited about how much a new product can do and forget that most folks don’t want a Swiss Army Knife product nor do they want a Porsche, they want something simple and affordable that does the few things they want to do well.
Most Smartphones, and especially the iPhone, attempts to do a lot of things and often they end up costing too much (especially in terms of their data plans) and being too elite for most users.
We mostly live in a Blue Collar world and that world suggests that less expensive, easier to use, more focused Smartphone would be better. Microsoft is exploring that idea this week with the new Kin phone where even the name is a simple three letters (as opposed to the more typical Sharp Windows Phone 7 Series Blue Collar Edition that it could have been named).
Keeping it Simple
What this phone does is marry a few features text, web, decent camera, social networking, and phone capability into something that is closer to what the Sidekick was than the iPhone is. The designs, like it is with most general purpose cars or trucks, is more focused on comfort and durability than it is on looking attractive. The phones should hold up well and be better for typing than the iPhone is, for instance, but they’ll never win beauty contests against an Apple product.
NVIDIA Provides Graphics Edge
These are the first phones to market with NVIDIA Tegra parts which provide the HD video capture and playback, the high megapixel cameras, and the high definition audio. The actually appear to outperform the iPhone, and most existing Smartphones, in video and still picture resolution making them a vastly better camera than anything else that has been released in the Smartphone class.
Social Networking, etc.
I’ve often wondered if we haven’t been losing track of the fact that a cell phone is supposed to be, first and foremost, a communications device. Rather than going the full on gaming and applications route this phone focuses on communications and picks up services like Facebook and Twitter.
Increasingly this is how we are communicating and it often seems like when we drifted over to applications and video games we kind of lost track of that and added a lot of complexity and size to a device class that may not have been improved for most of us by it.
In short, this phone tries to be better out of the box as a communications device without requiring third party apps to function fully as a communications device.
While pricing hasn’t been announced, I’m expecting pricing to be similar to the Sidekick with relatively aggressively priced data plans set more closely to what the iPad got from AT&T than a typical Smartphone plan would be.
This will make the device more attractive to parents buying phones for kids or Soccer Moms who just want to stay in touch and don’t want to learn a whole new Smartphone skill set.
Blue Collar Kin Telephone
As I look at this device it just strikes me as a Blue Collar phone and positions phones like the iPhone, most Android phones, and even the coming Windows Phone 7 phones as more white collar elite devices. Granted it is these white collar phones most of us that live and work tech will prefer but I wonder if the vast majority of the rest of the world wouldn’t prefer something that is a bit more basic, easier to use and that excelled at the things they were most likely to do?
We often forget that a lot of folks may lust after Porsche’ but most folks drive basic Fords, Chevys and Toyotas. For phones only a small percentage of people buy Smartphones the vast majority buy much lower cost and better focused feature phones. The Kin is a bridge product between a feature phone and a Smartphone and much more like that basic Ford than a Porsche.
Granted with the Tegra parts it is more like a basic Ford with a high performance SHO engine but still closer to a Blue Collar than it is an elite offering. That is actually where most of the world lives; let’s see if Microsoft and its partners can be effective at reminding us of that.
Rob Enderle is one of the last Inquiry Analysts. Inquiry Analysts are paid to stay up to date on current events and identify trends and either explain the trends or make suggestions, tactical and strategic, on how to best take advantage of them. Currently he provides his services to most of the major technology and media companies. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the writer.