Microsoft unveils ‘social’ phones for youth market

SAN FRANCISCO: Microsoft unveiled a new line of mobile phones called “Kin” aimed at young users which emphasise social networking.

The Kin One and Kin Two phones, which both feature touchscreens and slideout keyboards, are being manufactured by Japan’s Sharp and will be available in the United States through carrier Verizon Wireless in May.

The Kin phones will be sold in Britain, Germany, Italy and Spain in the fall in partnership with Vodafone.

The Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft did not announce prices for the phones, which are aimed at countering devices from rivals such as Apple, Motorola, BlackBerry RIM, Samsung and others.

The US software giant has previously focused on providing Windows operating systems for mobile phones but it was closely involved with Sharp in developing the hardware for the Kin series aimed at the youth market.

“Social’s part of the DNA of this phone,” Derek Snyder, a product manager at Windows Mobile, said at an unveiling event for the new phones here.

“Social networks are the cornerstone of this experience,” Snyder said.

“We saw an opportunity to design a mobile experience just for this social generation -- a phone that makes it easy to share your life moment to moment,” said Robbie Bach, president of Microsoft’s Entertainment and Devices Division.

“We built Kin for people who live to be connected, share, express and relate to their friends and family,” Bach said.

“The social generation has a point of view,” Bach added. “Their social life is their priority. Self expression is super important to them.”

The home screen of the Kin phones remains always on as the device brings together feeds from social networks such as Facebook, MySpace and Twitter.

Videos, photos, text messages, web pages and location and status updates can be shared by dragging them to a place on the phone called the “Spot.”

Users can also prioritise status updates, messages, feeds and photos from particular people.

The Kin One features a 5-megapixel camera which shoots standard definition video and is smaller and more compact than the Kin Two.

The Kin Two has a larger screen and larger keyboard, more memory and an 8-megapixel higher resolution camera which can record high-definition video.

The Kin offers online storage of photos and video through a feature called “Kin Studio,” which also backs up text messages, call history and contacts.

The Kin also allows users to listen to music or watch video from the Zune Marketplace, the online store for Microsoft’s Zune MP3 player.

The Kin One has 4GB of memory, or room for about 1,000 songs, while the Kin Two has 8GB of memory or 2,000 songs.

The phones are both black and the touchscreen gestures are similar to those used to operate the popular iPhone from Apple.

Gartner analyst Ken Dulaney said pricing would be key to the success of the phones in the United States.

“If they price it at US$199 (RM636) with a US$30 (RM96) monthly plan, it is dead,” he said. “At US$49 (RM156) with a US$15 (RM48) plan even a limited one, people would like it.” — AFP/Relaxnews

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