These little wonders, these twists and turns of fate…

meet_the_robinsons

… so goes a line from the title track Little wonders from the film Meet the Robinsons, a movie I highly recommend and whose overall theme loosely forms the basis of this post. For the readers tired of stories about the Kin phones,  please stop now or else you will be highly disappointed. For the ones remaining, I promise this will be the last time you will hear from me about the Kin for a while. So let us hop off the doom and gloom path and embark on a road less travelled.

Over the past few days, reports and discussions of the Kin phones demise dominated this site and elsewhere on the internet. The prevailing opinion seems to spell trouble for the prospects of WP7 but as our editor outlined in this great post, that could not be any further from the truth.

The abrupt cancellation of the project will hasten the merger of Kin and WP7 enabling the two teams to work together. This coincidentally fulfills the original goal of the Kin using the same codebase as WP7 instead of an unmanageable hybrid code. This opens up the Kin to be compatible with most WP7 apps and games requiring maybe just minor tweaking due to the versatility of Silverlight and XNA.

The rebuilding process then begins. MS should not kill the Kin brand but should revive it as the budget friendly and funky version of WP7 much like Toyota’s Scion brand instead of a crippled version of WP7 as some have suggested to fill that void. MS will start by  buying out the contracts of the current Kin owners (great idea from reader djguapo) because the reported numbers are low. They should then concentrate on getting WP7 out the door but at the same time fix the lacking features that plagued the Kin in preparation for the relaunch in early 2011.

How will this look like?

1. Carriers
We have seen how carriers especially in the US have the power to determine the success of phones. MS should do a better job and expand to offering the Kin to all carriers instead of an exclusive. Small regional  and Prepaid  carriers like MetroPCS and Sprint Boost mobile would be  a great fit since these firms are usually stuck with crappy phone choices and would likely jump at the chance of carrying a first rate phone at launch instead of waiting months or even years. These carriers also usually offer reasonable all inclusive yet affordable voice, data and text rates.

2. Software

This will include the obvious Key missing apps like the Calendar, IM clients, Location based services, Mapping with navigation and fully featured Facebook ,Twitter and Youtube integration .

3. Hardware.

The OEMS already manufacturing the high end WP7 phones will be allowed to manufacture the Kin Phones while  leaving MS still be responsible for the minimum specs, drivers and OTA updates. They will however  have the freedom to create more daring hip designs and various color schemes. This not only releases MS from competing with their partners, but it also gives them (the OEMS) a range of products both on the low end and high end using the WP7 platform. The Kin branding (e.g. “Samsung Kin” or “HTC Kin”) will be maintained to differentiate them from the high end line. The minimum storage will be increased  to 16 GB, the screen resolution will be 800×480 and 480x 320 with sizes from 3” to 3.7”

4. Apps and games

With the Kin running on the same platform as WP7, most of  the apps should work but the games would be mostly 2D and light 3D games due to the slower processors. The Zune marketplace will have a special Kin Section that only displays the apps and games compatible with the devices.

5. Studio

The studio speaks for itself. I would change the automatic backup to only sync low res (screen size) pictures over the air to save bandwidth. The High resolution versions of the pictures and videos will be synced to the Studio via the Zune desktop client without user intervention through Wi-Fi or when the phone is plugged to the PC. Investment in data compression technologies like the Blackberry should also ease data woes.

6. Pricing

This is the big one rehashed from a previous post. The standalone pricing would ideally start at $50 that includes 700 anytime minutes, unlimited text and web but no tethering (WP7 feature). As part of a family plan, the cost would be $30; $25 for data and $5 for the additional line with voice and text shared. A new tier for the Zune pass of $6.99 excluding 10 free monthly downloads will be introduced resulting in a total of $56.99 for  an individual contract and $36.99 as part of a family plan. MS should also consider a family Zune pass  or  better yet a combination with Xbox live gold plans for families with multiple devices for even bigger discounts.

7. Limitations

Some limitations will be present due to the fact that the devices will cater for the budget end of the spectrum. These will include things like no front facing camera or office mobile, but Onenote will be included and access to office web apps will still be possible. The games will be limited to less processor intensive ones and the number of apps running at one time can also be curtailed.

The end results in Microsoft and its partners offering a wide range of products in the mobile market that spans the whole spectrum from the budget friendly to the high end while still maintaining a unified platform using the WP7 codebase. The inclusion of the Zune player in all the phones and their  availability worldwide will also finally give  the Zune ecosystem a chance to gain traction with users something that the Zune HD by itself was never able to do.

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