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Microsoft Kin One and Kin Two cell phones

By Damir Beciri
16 April 2010

microsoft-kinMicrosoft Corp. unveiled two cell phones that are meant for social networking. At first, the new touch-screen phones named Kin One and Kin Two will be sold in the U.S. near May, and it will be followed by sales in Italy, Spain, Germany and the U.K sometime in fall this year. They are being made by Sharp Corp., which has produced Sidekick cell phones, whose software comes from Microsoft-owned Danger Inc.

Roz Ho, leader of the Microsoft team behind the Kin, said the company has been working on the Kin devices for several years, trying to create a handset for people who especially want to connect with others over social Web sites such as Facebook, MySpace or Twitter. The phones are also meant for people who want a handset that works simply, without forcing them to hunt through menus and icons, she said.

That setup could also present a risk. Unlike most popular smart phones, the Kins won’t have access to application stores that let customers download add-on software programs. Ho said her team studied consumer habits and then built the activities they used most often into the Kin phones. On the other hand, the presenter in a demo said it will be expandable in order to make it compatible with new social networks.

In a demo, the Kin’s home screen showed a live stream of updates to social networks and Web sites that can be clicked on and responded to. Users can send photos and other material to people by dragging it onto a little circle at the bottom of the screen. A finger swipe across the screen can then bring up a page with applications such as photos and music.

Both Kins are black with screens that respond to multiple finger gestures, similar to the “multitouch” technology on the iPhone. The shorter Kin One has a full QWERTY keyboard that slides out from the bottom, while the Kin Two has a full QWERTY keyboard that comes out from its side.

Both include Wi-Fi access and cameras capable of taking higher-resolution photos than most handsets, where the Kin One has a 5-megapixel camera, while the Kin Two has an 8-megapixel camera. The Kin Two is also capable of shooting HD-quality video. Kin One comes with 4GB of memory while Kin Two comes with 8GB of memory.

Where the Kin may have the biggest influence on other phones may be the companion Web service, the Kin Studio. It’s basically a personal Web page provided for each phone, where users can bring their Kin experience into a computer’s browser, and the Kin content and activity is automatically synchronized with the online service. The Studio pages can be used to see, store, download and manage photos and videos. They also display contacts’ information and a timeline to browse what’s been done with the phone.

The phones can upload content such as photos and videos to a Kin online storage service to free up memory. It stores phone numbers, photos and other personal data on servers it runs. The prices and ways of subscription have yet to be announced.

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