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KIN Flop Bodes Ill For Windows Phone 7

Microsoft needs a fresh approach to the mobile market if it's to avoid another box office disaster.

Microsoft has pulled the plug on its line of KIN social networking phones after less than three months on the market—a move that casts doubt on Redmond's chances of ever becoming a significant player in the increasingly important mobile market.

Microsoft has not commented publicly on KIN's demise, but industry sources confirm KIN is dead and that the company will no longer manufacture the phones after current inventory is exhausted.

While KIN was not a strategic product for Microsoft, many of its design features are expected to be incorporated into a product on which the software maker is betting its future in the cell phone segment—Windows Phone 7.

Specifically, Microsoft has said that, like KIN, Windows Phone 7—expected to ship later this year--will feature a prominent, always-on GUI that pushes content from multiple social networking sites.

KIN's main interface, the KIN Loop, offered real-time feeds and status updates from Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft's own Wonder Wall, and other Web 2.0 sites. To share an item with a group of friends, users could drag it into a small circle called the KIN Spot.

Graphically, the item then disappeared down the circle and was instantly shared.

While slick in theory, users proved cool to the concept of a phone that eschewed more basic features in favor of a social networking-centric design. Amazon sales data shows that KIN Two is now currently ranked 1,575 in the retailer's cell phone category, while the less powerful KIN One is ranked 7,094. In other words, both phones turned out to be massive sales flops.

Not surprisingly, Amazon has reduced the price of both phones to one cent in an effort to clear inventory. Windows Phone 7, for its part, adds new features such as an online apps store and third-party APIs. But Microsoft earlier this year took pains to point out that KIN provided much of the design inspiration for the new product.

If users turn their back on Windows Phone 7 as quickly as they did KIN, Microsoft could quickly become irrelevant in a mobile market in which rivals like Apple and Google—with their iPhone and Android devices, respectively, seem poised to become dominant.

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