Microsoft Debuts Project Pink KIN 1 & 2 on Verizon

Microsoft Corp. finally unveiled its long-awaited Project Pink phones for the consumer market on Monday, with the unexpected twist being that they are not powered by Micrsoft’s new OS, Windows Phone 7. They are instead based on a lighter version of the Windows Phone platform, and target social network users in the youth segment. And, they’re not smartphones: no app store, no “true Internet,” etc. They will launch on Verizon Wireless.

The KIN 1 (formerly known as “Turtle”) offers a portrait slide-out keyboard and a 5-megapixel camera. The KIN 2 (previously known as “Pure”) offers a landscape slide-out keyboard and an 8-megapixel camera.

The phones are niche products for the legion of young “sociologists” out there that put friends at the center of their universe, Robbie Bach said at the launch event. Because this demographic feels like no phone has been made for them, Microsoft decided to seize the opportunity to cater to that pent-up demand without waiting for Windows Phone 7 to be fully cooked.

The two are part of Microsoft’s “Project Pink” initiative, which set out to create form factors based on its acquisition of Danger, a software and services company with roots in the consumer mobility market. The T-Mobile Sidekick, for instance, is a Danger device. The idea is to specifically bolster Microsoft’s profile with users outside the enterprise, which is really the only place it has gained any sort of traction with Windows Mobile phones in the past.

Social networking is a particular focus: A deck called “the Spot” aggregates status updates and news feeds from various sites, all in one location. That’s very similar to Motorola Inc.’s “MOTOBLUR” functionality for offering all social media in one screen.

It also makes it simple to pull and share content to and from various locations, and offers a “favorites” area for users to track specific friends or tweeters.

“Quick messaging devices are evolving,” says Jeff Orr, mobile devices senior analyst for ABI Research. “Text-only communications environments are shifting to incorporate a rich, efficient multimedia experience. An intuitive user interface that encompasses voice, messaging, images, video, and browsing is essential.”

The phones also feature high-resolution cameras that automatically geo-tag and upload a user’s photos and videos for instant sharing and social network updates. The KIN devices also feature the company’s Zune music player and an FM radio tuner.

The KIN Studio, is a device-specific cloud account that will store and backup all the data generated through these handsets, much like the Sidekick’s cloud data storage. “These devices offer everything a hyper social user needs to instantly document and broadcast every detail of their lives across popular social networks,” notes mobile device analyst Michael Morgan. “Having all of a user’s contacts and pertinent social data stored in a Microsoft vault creates the potential for a very sticky service.”

Sharp Electronics will manufacture the devices, which will launch in May on Verizon. Vodafone will bring them to Germany, Italy, Spain and the U.K. later this year.

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