updated 04:00 pm EST, Sat December 11, 2010
Microsoft to close Kin Studio January 31
A leak on Saturday has signalled that Microsoft is backing away more permanently from the Kin One and Two. The platform's Kin Studio online backup and sharing service will shut down January 31, less than a year after it went live, and will take away nearly all the features unique to the two phones. While e-mail, web browsing and Zune Pass streaming over Wi-Fi will still work, WPCentral's copy of a memo has the home screen social network updates (Kin Loop), direct Facebook updates, Facebook media sharing and the RSS reader will stop working.
The change will go so far as to disable over-the-air updates and Zune Pass support over 3G, requiring that users be close to their computer for features that would previously have worked over cellular.
As compensation, Verizon is promising a free 3G-capable phone of any kind to existing Kin owners, including smartphones like the HTC, Motorola and Samsung lines as well as any BlackBerry. Only modems, tablets and any 4G hardware are off-limits, Verizon said. The deal will run for two months after Kin Studio shuts down, on March 31, and could potentially let users trade up to a Verizon iPhone given the widely expected first quarter 2011 Apple launch.
The end to the Studio is an at least partial second end to the Kin phones. Both were relaunched as basic phones last month and wouldn't have access to Kin Studio without a data plan regardless, but the end to the major online component marks the finish to Microsoft's original ambitions by denying the possibility of most smartphone-level features. Much of the initial failure was attributed to the requirement of a minimum $70 smartphone plan for a device targeted at teens. iInfighting-related shipping delays pushed the pricing to that level when attempts to sabotage the Kin in favor of Windows Phone killed off a deal with Verizon that would have dropped the rate pricing much lower.
Microsoft has been placing all of its current hope for a mobile revival on Windows Phone 7, which has been more successful but has had its sales results kept secret in what may be an additional sign of difficulties.