The now-dead KIN was not a bad idea (read our hands-on with the platform). Microsoft’s ambitions with the KIN were sound. As much as the iPhone and, lately, Android handsets garner all the press attention, smartphones represent only a minority of phone sales—a growing minority, but a minority all the same. There are many, many people who don’t have a smartphone, and don’t even particularly want one, and they easily outnumber smartphone users.
Redmond wanted to be a part of this broader market. The company was already a big player in the smartphone market with Windows Mobile; the KIN was a product of its ambitions beyond that space. So rather than starting from scratch, in 2008 Microsoft bought Danger, the company behind the T-Mobile Sidekick line.
Since our piece on Wednesday, we’ve had more trusted sources step forward to fill in some blanks and clarify the story behind the amazingly swift fall from grace that Microsoft’s Kin phones have experienced since their launch just a few weeks ago. It’s a fascinating tale, and we wanted to share everything we’ve learned.
MS has gotten a reputation recently of being a place where corporate politics is more important than producing great products. MS’s foray into its own phone is a great example of how large companies so seldom innovate – too much time is spent on killing the creative innovations of rivals than actually doing a good job.
And what is fascinating between these two stories is not the general aspects of in-fighting, territoriality and just shear incompetence. That is to be expected. It is that MS was also willing to screw over its cell phone partner also.
Read both stories. This is a company that really has no long-term direction or vision. What was a smart decision – buying the technology to produce a cheap, useful phone for young adults – became horrible in its execution. What sort of company purposefully sabotages a released product like that?
This sort of infighting is not only exhausting, wasting resources that should be devoted to great products, it is demoralizing to the vast group that is actually creating the innovations the company needs to survive. The smart, creative guys are going to Google and Apple. To them, MS is becoming more and more irrelevant as it fights its internal turf battles.
You do not see the guys at Apple in charge of iPods undercutting the iPad, even though the percentage of revenues from the iPod are dropping and it is becoming less and less important. In its first quarter the iPad will eclipse the revenues of the iPod.
How about Apple TV or the Mac mini? Hobbies that may very well position Apple to take on the TV market when things are ripe. At MS, VPs would be working to kill those projects so that they could incorporate those resources in their own departments.
Not at Apple.
Apple has a strategy where its products fit together and support one another. It recognizes that all of its products have to collectively work together in some sort of cohesive fashion; they each leverage the other. iPods help sell Macs. iPod touches and iPhones help sell apps. Apps help sell Macs (Objective-C required to develop). iPhones help sell iPads (same GUI, etc.) They are all pieces of the same puzzle. Once someone buys one of them, they can easily transition to another one.
And they all run the same operating system, just with slightly different GUIs, so what is learned while developing for one device can be applied to another. The developers get smarter and so do the customers.
Collectively, they are more potent than any one product.
MS has a bunch of Randian Galt-like characters all working for themselves. No collectivism for them. For example, there are at least 6 different operating systems for mobile MS devices, with very little development cross talk between them.Tablets will use a different operating system than will phones. PCs will be a totally different one. No leverage.
It is as if Apple is putting the puzzle together by using the picture on the box and starting with the edge pieces while MS is just randomly sticking pieces together.
Which company would you rather bet will succeed?