Microsoft launches Kin phones (live blog)

Software maker teams up with Verizon on a pair of feature phones dubbed the Kin One and Kin Two, with a Zune music tie-in.

Ina Fried Former Staff writer, CNET News
During her years at CNET News, Ina Fried changed beats several times, changed genders once, and covered both of the Pirates of Silicon Valley.
Ina Fried
4 min read
The scene Monday morning outside Mighty, the San Francisco club where Microsoft is holding an event. James Martin/CNET

During an event Monday morning, Microsoft announced that it has teamed with Verizon on a pair of feature phones for the youthful Facebook crowd. The Kin One and Kin Two are the first in the Windows Phone family to come with the Zune music service. The following is a record of our live coverage from the event:

SAN FRANCISCO--Microsoft and Verizon on Monday will be introducing two new feature phones, code-named Turtle and Pure, aimed at the always-connected messaging crowd.

Microsoft's Kin One and Two (photos)

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The pair of slider phones, each with a touch screen and keyboard, can be thought of as successors to the Sidekick line that Microsoft got with its Danger acquisition. Part of a long-running internal project called "Pink," they will be heavy on social networking and also will be the first phones to be able to access the Zune music service.

How will they stack up against the iPhone? They're not really intended to compete with Apple's juggernaut, but they may well help Microsoft regain its footing in the phone business. Plus, adding scale to the Zune community could help make the Zune feature of Windows Phone more compelling.

We'll be at the event--the start time is 10 a.m. PDT--where the phones will be unveiled, bringing you the action right here as it unfolds. So bookmark this post and check back for all the details.

9:21 a.m. PDT: The press is huddled outside Mighty, the club where Microsoft is holding the event. They haven't let us in yet.

So far, I haven't gotten anyone to confirm rumors the devices will be dubbed "Kin."

The scene inside Mighty, where Microsoft is about to introduce two new feature phones, code-named Turtle and Pure. James Martin/CNET

9:57 a.m. PDT: We're all inside the club. Lounge music playing softly as Ritual Coffee Roasters brew is being served to warm us up. Nothing going on yet. Various video monitors are running a slideshow of images similar to those on the invitation. The main screen carries the Sharp, Windows phone, Verizon, and Vodaphone logos.

10:00 a.m. PDT: We just got the five-minute warning.

10:02 a.m. PDT: Confirmed: It's Kin One and Kin Two. Microsoft's Kin site is live here, with pictures and details.

10:05 a.m. PDT: Microsoft entertainment unit president Robbie Bach on stage. Says the company did thousands of hours of research on what consumers wanted in a phone. Says today is the result of a lot of work. "This is really one of the better parts of my job," Bach said.

10:08 a.m. PDT: Video of young people all talking about how they want to be connected all the time. "Facebook is my second job that doesn't pay," said one.

10:10 a.m. PDT: Bach outlining the target demographic of the new devices. They are focused on self-expression, Bach said.

"They want to share the journey every day," Bach said. "They haven't had a phone that's well-designed specifically for them."

Now he's contrasting what is being done with Windows Phone 7, which he said is more general purpose, designed broadly. He's characterizing today's phones as Windows Phones customized for this highly social demographic.

"Windows Phone 7 is about simplifying peoples life," Bach said. "This phone is about amplifying people's life."

Robbie Bach, president of Microsoft's Entertainment and Device division, takes the stage. James Martin/CNET

10:15 a.m. PDT: Bach reiterates that Windows Phone 7 will ship this fall and is now back talking about today's news.

"Today I want to introduce you to the newest member of the Windows Phone family: Kin," Bach said.

Product manager Derek Snyder is on stage now demoing the Kin, which will come in two flavors: Kin One and Kin Two (the devices foreseen as Pure and Turtle). Snyder makes a humorous reference to the fact that some people may have seen pictures of the devices.

10:20 a.m. PDT: Kin phones have a green button, known as a "Kin spot," designed for sharing, either with specific friends or to a social network such as Facebook.

Bach and Snyder are talking about three levels of friends--one's truly close friends, their broader social circle, and then the online people that are "friends" only on places like Facebook.

"We're the only phone that actually keeps your close friends close and treats them differently," Snyder said.

Derek Snyder, product marketing manager for the Mobile Communications division, takes the stage. James Martin/CNET

The phone also has built-in search that combines searching the phone, local search, and Web search with Bing.

Kin phones also let you access content from Microsoft's Zune service, both loading content directly or streaming subscription music over the phone.

"We are the first Windows Phone to ship with Zune," Snyder said.

Browser in use on the Kin One. James Martin/CNEt

10:22 a.m. PDT: Microsoft says it's invested heavily in the phone. One has a 5-megapixel camera, the other an 8-megapixel camera, both with flash. The Kin Two shoots video in HD.

Companion Kin Studio online service backs up pictures and other data. Also includes a time line feature that lets one see a chronology of their life as captured by the phone. Photos are all geotagged too, so one can see their photos on a map as well.

The Kin studio online. James Martin/CNET

10:27 a.m. PDT: Bach back on stage. He's talking about how the company knew that to build this experience, it needed to work closely with just a couple key partners.

"We knew we wanted to do this on a global basis, so Verizon and Vodaphone were logical partners," Bach said.

10:30 a.m. PDT: Now on stage is John Harrobin, a senior vice president at Verizon, talking about the phone as the best social phone.

"It's the phone you use to be the first to comment on somebody's photo," he said. It's not just good for teens; it's also good for parents, he insists.

John Harrobin, Verizon Wireless' executive vice president and chief marketing officer. James Martin/CNET

10:35 a.m. PDT: No pricing announced. The two phones are coming next month.

The formal part of the event is over, with press now invited to take a look.

Microsoft Kin One
The Kin One closed and open, from Microsoft's product site. Microsoft

Microsoft Kin Two
The Kin Two, closed and open, from Microsoft's product site. Microsoft