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Microsoft Lifts the Curtains on Pink Series, Unveils Kin One, Kin Two

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Kin One and Kin TwoREDMOND, USA – Ending months of speculation, software giant Microsoft unveiled its first branded handset line-up, going by the name of Kin.

The devices had earlier leaked into the blogosphere as Pink series of phones from Microsoft, but the manufacturer chose the more apt Kin branding for its foray into handsets. The Windows developer released two devices – Kin One and Kin Two, targeted at the social networking-addicted youth segment.

The handset launch from Microsoft comes two years after the software giant bought Sidekick-manufacturer Danger, in February 2008. The Sidekick was a popular youth-centric handset with its slide-out keyboard being a major attraction for text-crazy youth. Banking on Danger’s expertise in this niche market, Microsoft has launched Kin with a special emphasis on social networking services. Clearly differentiating itself from the smartphone segment, where Microsoft offers Windows Phone platform, Kin banks entirely on embedded apps on the phone with no support for third-party applications.

Another startling feature of the Kin series of devices is the cloud-based infrastructure which lowers the hardware requirements and hence the entry price of the handset. The latest handsets from Microsoft feature two innovative features, titled “Spot” and “Loop”. While “Loop” is Microsoft’s cloud-based home screen, aggregating social content from social networking services (Twitter, Facebook, etc.); “Spot” is a one-stop sharing solution for a variety of content including maps, images, status updates,  and videos with friends.

The two devices launched yesterday, Kin One and Kin Two, are equipped with slide-out QWERTY keyboards, to keep the styling of Sidekick which pioneered in this segment.

Kin One

Kin One is Microsoft’s entry-level handset, and is equipped with a capacitive touchscreen with QVGA resolution, a 5 megapixel camera with flash, 4GB of internal storage space and a slide-out portrait QWERTY keyboard.

Kin Two

The pricier Kin of the two, Kin Two, is a HD handset boasting of a display with HVGA resolution, an 8 megapixel camera with HD 720p video capture and flash, and 8GB of  internal storage space. Equipped with a landscape slide-out QWERTY keyboard, the Kin Two is marginally thicker than the Kin One.

The Kin series of phones blend in with Microsoft’s Zune eco-system for music and videos, while Zune gaming is not yet supported on this platform. Further, to attract Mac users (a genre which Microsoft has often ignored with its Windows Mobile series), Microsoft will be offering a Mac-compatible music side-loader which will offer all the functionality of Zune except for the music store, and will be capable of connecting to iTunes and sync non-DRM music collection.

As with Windows Mobile 6.5, Kin handsets support over-the-air firmware updates but will not allow tethering for internet access.

Besides integrating social networking services into its Kin series of handsets, Microsoft has moved the entire file infrastructure of the device to  a cloud-based network. This infrastructure facilitates easier management of photos, videos and contacts. Further, the software giant has moved the entire Kin platform to the cloud as well, giving users the options of accessing intrinsic phone features such as call logs from the web. By banking on a cloud-based infrastructure, Microsoft has managed to keep the tab on hardware requirements of its handsets but the devices rely heavily on data connections, in the absence of which the handsets basic functionality is severely affected.

Whether Verizon, the network partner of Microsoft in US will be able to cope up with the increased data demands of Kin users remains to be seen.

While the launch event revealed most of the features related to Kin and its eco-system, details on availability and pricing were conspicuous by their absence.

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By , Chief International Correspondent on Apr 14th, 2010 GMT +2


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