Microsoft launches Kin social phones
Kin makes it easy to share photos and messages within social network.
Microsoft said the new devices would help people "publish the magazine of their life".
The Kin One is a compact device featuring a touch-screen interface and slide-out Qwerty keyboard, while the Kin Two has a larger touch-screen, bigger keyboard, more storage and a better camera.
The emphasis, said Microsoft, was on creating a phone that focused on people and content rather than menus and icons.
"We saw an opportunity to design a mobile experience just for this social generation — a phone that makes it easy to share your life moment to moment,” said Robbie Bach, president of the entertainment and devices division at Microsoft.
“We built Kin for people who live to be connected, share, express and relate to their friends and family. This social generation wants and needs more from their phone, and Kin is the one place to get the stuff you care about to the people you care about most.”
The phones, which run a proprietary operating system, rather than Microsoft's forthcoming Windows Phone 7 Series software, are built around three central features: Kin Loop, which aggregates live feeds from social networking sites such as Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, as well as Microsoft's own offerings, in to a single portal; Kin Spot, which enables people to share videos, photos, location information, status updates and more by "dragging" that information to a dedicated area of the phone called the Spot; and Kin Studio, which ensures that everything created on the phone, such as photos and videos, are stored in the cloud and accessible through any device with a web browser.
The Kin One and Kin Two will be available exclusively in the UK through Vodafone, though the company is yet to release pricing information or a firm launch date.
"Kin is an excellent example of when mobile and social networks converge," said Michael Gartenberg, a mobile industry analyst. "Different audiences have different needs and want optimised experiences."
However, Joshua Topolsky, editor-in-chief of technology website Engadget, said Microsoft could struggle to attract users away from rival devices such as the Apple iPhone.
"They're competing with a $99 iPhone here," he said. "I don't think they really know their demographic at all. They miss a huge mark I think."
But Carolina Milanesi, a senior analyst with Gartner, said that the Kin devices were not really designed to compete with Apple's offering, and was targeted firmly at teenagers.
"The iPhone is not a very social device, but the Kin One and Kin Two absolutely are," she said. "It has one of the most clever user interfaces I have seen for a social networking device, and I think it's going to put pressure on rival manufacturers, such as Motorola.
"The inability to download applications and games, though, could be an issue for some consumers."