It seems that after doing some initial work on these phones based around Danger’s proprietary Sidekick OS, Andy Lees — the SVP of Microsoft’s mobile division — instructed everyone to go back to the drawing board and rebuild the OS based on Windows CE. It appears the company didn’t want a project that wasn’t directly connected to its Windows kernel. This move allegedly set the release of the devices back 18 months, during which time Redmond’s carrier partner [Verizon] became increasingly frustrated with the delays. Apparently when it came time to actually bring the Kins to market, Big Red had soured on the deal altogether and was no longer planning to offer the bargain-basement pricing deals it first had tendered. The rest, as they say, is history — though we don’t think even great prices could have accounted for what was fundamentally a flawed product.
No company with a serious strategy and belief in a product kills it just seven weeks after launch, no matter how poorly it initially sells. A smart company might hold the line a little longer, spin a press release, or maybe tweak their strategy.
But this was Microsoft:
- It’s just like Microsoft to decide the Kin must be Windows-based, and ignore the IP they’d bought in Danger.
- It’s just like Microsoft to not understand an 18-month delay is poison in the mobile market. This isn’t Windows or Office, where customers feel there’s nowhere else to go.
- It’s just like Microsoft for various teams to pull in different directions; even now there’s only talk of unifying their mobile efforts.
- It’s just like Microsoft to write off tens of millions of dollars spent on the project so quickly because, well, they figure they can afford it.
This product should never have been released. It’s clear many in power were ready to kill it—at a moment’s notice and with little reason—without even the appearance of trying to make a go of it. Yet for all those who could agree to kill it so soon after launch, they hadn’t the guts (or sense, take your pick) to kill it beforehand.
On top of that, Microsoft angered Verizon, the US carrier with no love for Apple since they can’t sell the iPhone. A decent Windows Phone 7 on Verizon might have made a good team against the iPhone/AT&T, but instead they’re barely speaking, with Microsoft saying they’re releasing WP7 phones on GSM first.
The Microsoft Kin should have been another Palm Foleo, an idea that got too far internally, but cooler heads prevailed and avoided the embarrassment of a launch. Sure, Palm was kicked around a little for announcing a product they didn’t deliver, but it’s nothing compared to the critique Microsoft deserves for wasting years of time, resources, and money for a seven-week stint to prove they’re still clueless in the mobile sector.