Microsoft’s mobile track record has more good points than bad — Windows Mobile helped push the limits of what a phone could do, and Windows Phone is a refreshing competitor in a market currently dominated by two other operating systems.
That said, Microsoft put out some real stinkers too. Wired got its hands on some videos of Microsoft’s infamous Kin handsets undergoing some pre-release testing, and the unlucky saps tasked with playing with the devices revealed what the rest of us would only figure out later: the Kins were just god-awful.
Seriously, it’s worth taking just a few minutes to see how soundly these folks panned Microsoft’s not-so-smartphones. For a pair of devices meant to appeal to the younger set with its focus on social networking, one participant notes that his daughter would probably give a Kin back “very quickly.” Another gentleman notes that he’d have returned either phone had he actually, you know, paid money for them. Perhaps most damning, the touch response on the Kin Two was abysmal enough that one tester stated that using it was a “turn off” compared to his own button-laden phone.
In fairness, these were clearly non-final devices, but flaky hardware and interaction quality weren’t the only things the Kin had going against it. If you’ll recall, the two tween-centric devices launched exclusively with Verizon Wireless and were caught in a sort of no man’s land between feature phones and smartphones — Kins One and Two were saddled with the need for full-blown $30 unlimited data plans, making them hard sells to cost-conscious families (especially when devices like the carrier’s immensely-popular Droid line made better use of a data plan than the Kins ever did).
As the story goes, the Kins went on to sell tremendously poorly, prompting Microsoft to officially pull the plug on their curious little phones after only two months… until Verizon started selling them again sans data plans. It’s perhaps no surprise then that Verizon Wireless seemed to remain wary of Microsoft’s future efforts. Until now, the carrier only had a single Windows Phone device among its ranks. To Microsoft’s credit, they switched gears quite nicely and Windows Phone is generally a joy to use, but it’s worth remembering that the company’s mobile push wasn’t without its very prominent misses.