Kin 1 and Kin 2 (aka Microsoft’s Project Pink)

12 April 2010

Microsoft launched 2 new phones this morning which are more social networking devices rather than phones. I have to say, that I was mostly impressed with the functionality that was presented, though I think that some of the user interface is rather cluttered and looks confusing. Of course without having a hands-on, it’s a bit difficult to determine how intuitive the interface will be once it’s loaded with my own personal data rather than watching someone navigating their own data.

Many of the concepts that were shown in Kin were along the same line of what I was trying to accomplish at AOL in 2006 (and later at Varia – our management buyout of the AOL assets) – integrate your social network, media and communication as your primary mobile device. When I joined AOL, the opportunity was phenomenal. AOL at the time had a video service, a subscription music service, pictures and instant messaging plus they owned Tegic (T9 text input company) and had recently acquired a smart phone software/hardware platform company. My job was to research, plan and execute a new strategy to create an easy to use experience for the mobile internet (AOL wanted to replicate its success with bringing users on-line from their desktop in the mobile space). There were several devices that I had planned and the first up was a portable media player that accessed all of AOL’s content services wirelessly. Later on the roadmap was the integration of social services to further enhance the experience and allow easy sharing and communication between friends. These were the primary assets and plans that carried over to Varia.

Community Phone Concept

However the plan that I championed was the “Community Phone” and seeing Microsoft’s Kin products reminds me of what I had envisioned. If you think about a phone, it’s a communication device – but as people move more and more into social networks keeping in touch with your community becomes the primary mode of communication. Thus having a phone capable of understanding not only how to communicate with people but also threading the information about your community throughout the phone experience. In July of 2006 I presented some ideas on what this concept could include. Obviously the mobile phone space has changed a lot since then but the core concepts are still valid and similar in nature to Microsoft’s ideas for Kin.

Core Ideas:
• Expand Contact Details

    o Static info (e.g. name, addresses, blog location, IM info, etc)
    o Dynamic info (e.g. presence, recent posts and activity, recent media viewed, photos taken, etc)

• Server enhancement of contacts and comments

    o Aggregates feeds from multiple sources
    o Keeps up to date data on activities
    o Holds comments information for personal communities (particularly sites that don’t have their own)

• Ability to view “live” information about your contacts
• All content on the phone treated equally
• Ability to share, comment and blog any content
• Presence, location awareness
• Community features available to users w/o phone

I removed a couple of innovative ideas that could take this type of phone to the next level. If you want to know more… feel free to contact me.

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