Pop Stars Could Be Microsoft's Kin Secret Weapon


In fact, Microsoft already has a business relationship with both stars. Bieber's performance at the opening of Microsoft's retail store in Mission Viejo, Calif. last fall attracted a mob scene of shrieking teens, and Tisdale's performance elicited howls of adulation at the opening of Microsoft's Scottsdale, Ariz. store.

What's more, when Bill Gates joined Twitter in January, Tisdale was one of the first people he chose to follow. If Tisdale and Bieber start carrying around Kin devices, this would provide the kind of impact that Microsoft couldn't get from any marketing campaign.

Microsoft will have to get creative in marketing Kin, because the devices aren’t much cheaper than full fledged smartphones, and Verizon's $30 mandatory data plan could be a big stumbling block, especially for teens.

Julie De Jong, an Atlanta-based Windows Mobile MVP, is unsure about how well Kin devices will sell and says their form factor seems "dated and clunky."

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"The iPhone and some of the Windows Mobile HTC phones have a snazzier look and feel and don't cost that much more than the Kin," De Jong said. "Nonetheless marketing can be very effective and it appears that Microsoft is putting a lot of marketing dollars behind Kin."

Microsoft's early Kin marketing efforts have been pretty racy. In a promotional video on the Kin.com Website, a young man sticks a Kin device under his shirt, snaps a photo of his breast and sends it to his female friend, who smiles and shakes her head upon receiving the image.

Microsoft subsequently edited out this scene, but clearly, the company is pulling out the stops to reach a new audience. If Windows Mobile is an example of what happens when Microsoft doesn't experiment, then Kin represents the other side of the coin.

Regardless of whether Kin succeeds, Dave Sobel, CEO of Evolve Technologies, a Fairfax, Va.-based Microsoft partner, is encouraged by the fact that Microsoft is willing to try something different in mobile.

"Companies are trying out more specialized devices, and the Kindle and iPad are examples. I'm encouraged by all this new experimentation," Sobel said. "The mobile industry hasn’t had enough innovation, and you have to be willing to take some risks.