Microsoft KIN Taps Social, Mobile Markets

KIN, the newest mobile device from Microsoft - pointit.comToday, Microsoft unveiled its newest mobile device product, the KIN. Designed and developed by the same group that created the Sidekick, KIN is a phone designed with a heavy focus on social networking, right down to a radical new user interface that brings status updates front and center. It’s a bold step for Microsoft – a phone that leverages Windows Phone 7 technology to target a young, hip, socially-connected group of users.

It’s also a bold step for our little corner of the world, advertising. We’ve talked about the importance of Twitter, Facebook and Social Media Marketing as well as Mobile Advertising quite a bit here in the past. Social Media and Mobile: two buzz words that titillate online marketers on their own, can now be mashed together for an even bigger buzz word. Could Microsoft be giving us a taste of the future?

It’s been fascinating to watch the gadget world cover the KIN this morning. Outlets like Engadget and Ars Technica have laid out some great thoughts on the KIN for the average consumer. Like the Sidekick, both KIN models will offer email, SMS and MMS messaging, and a browser. The difference in design comes from the KIN’s unique interface, built from the ground up to focus on sharing bits of info with your various social streams.

Looks neat, right? Here’s the downside: Zero third-party support for applications. If you were thinking of reaching out to this younger, socially-connected base through a custom app, you’re out of luck.

Another question mark on the KIN is its role as a content consumption device. Most of Microsoft’s initial information dumps have focused on how the device can be used to share snippets of info – Videos shot on the camera can be uploaded automatically, status updates can be sent to Facebook, Twitter and MySpace all at once. Will this be a viable platform for information consumption? My gut reaction is, no. Reports flooding in suggest that any data the phone pulls from its various social networks is wrapped in the KIN’s interface. Forget serving Facebook ads to your audience on the KIN… they won’t see it.

It’s way too early to pass judgment on the KIN, but the fact that Microsoft is introducing the product at all speaks to an area of mobile marketing that often gets forgotten – the prevalence of social media on mobile devices. Consider this data from FlowTown.com, who reports that 30.8% of smartphone owners access social networks on mobile browsers.

Keep in mind, that doesn’t include the roughly 6 million users who use mobile apps. This is mobile site usage. That number is simply astounding, and should open many eyes to the marketing possibilities present in Mobile.

Looking through the lens of Mobile Social Media, Microsoft could very well be on the right path. At the very least, the KIN as a social device is well worth keeping a critical eye on.

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