Microsoft Calling. Anyone There?
By ASHLEE VANCE July 4, 2010
Microsoft's engineers and executives spent two years creating a new line of smartphones with playful names that sounded like creatures straight out of "The Cat in the Hat" - Kin One and Kin Two. Stylish designs, an emphasis on flashy social-networking features and an all-out marketing blitz were meant to prove that Microsoft could build the right product at the right time for the finickiest customers - gossiping youngsters with gadget skills.
But last week, less than two months after the Kins arrived in stores, Microsoft said it would kill the products.
"That's a record-breaking quick end to a product, as far as I am concerned," said Michael Cronan, a designer who helped drive the branding of products like Kindle for Amazon and TiVo. "It did seem like a big mistake on their part."
The Kins' flop adds to a long list of products - from watches to music players - that have plagued Microsoft's consumer division, while its business group has suffered as well through less-than-successful offerings like Windows Vista and Windows for tablet computers.
In particular, the Kin debacle is a reflection of Microsoft's struggle to deliver what the younger generation of technology-obsessed consumers wants. From hand-held products to business software, Microsoft seems behind the times.
Part of its problem may be that its ability to intrigue and attract software developers is also waning, which threatens its ability to steer markets over the long term. When it comes to electronic devices, people writing software have turned their attention to platforms from Apple and Google.
Meanwhile, young technology companies today rely on free, open-source business software rather than Microsoft's products, so young students, soon to be looking for jobs, have embraced open-source software as well.
...***** Moderator's Note *****
The Times' reporter is being kind to Microsoft: major colleges and universities have been distributing open-source software, mostly GNU/Linux, for years now. There wasn't anything noble about it: the schools found out the hard way that open-source didn't cause the rampant virus and spyware plagues that Microsoft's products were subject to.
As for Microsoft's lack of success in consumer markets, that's also easy to explain: users are so frustrated with the Microsoft Method[tm] of price gauging and with its cavalier policies toward customers begging for support ("Go away, little man, you bother me...") that the company's infamous trademark is a liability in the consumer world. As with NYNEX and its ill-fated foray into Retail with the NYNEX stores, Microsoft is learning that customers have long memories.
Bill Horne Moderator