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Device operating systems

Has Microsoft Missed Its Mobile Moment?

3:25 PM -- At first glance, the two new Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) Kin "social networking" phones look sharp and well designed but don't seem to offer a revolutionary approach over the current crop of Android phones from High Tech Computer Corp. (HTC) (Taiwan: 2498) and Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT).

The phones will tie into Twitter, MySpace, and Facebook for those that just have to let people know when they've finished eating a cheese sandwich. Software like Motorola's Blur skin on Android already does that though. (See Microsoft Has Two New Kin.)

Having the Kin contacts and content in the cloud is a nice touch, but Google had the tight integration with its Gmail contacts on day one. And how many people do you know that use Windows Live?

The best elements of the Kin software appear to be the way it links to the cloud and a user's PC. The Studio software automatically uploads photos and videos so they're viewable through a Web browser.

Extremely tight integration between the phones and a desktop browser could clearly be one of the major ways that Microsoft could exploit its established base with the Kin and, potentially, other devices in the future. Although Microsoft had a similarly captive audience with Exchange users that wanted to mobilize, it basically let BlackBerry devices become the mobile conduit of choice instead.

You may notice that I'm largely contrasting the Microsoft phones with Android devices rather than the iPhone. That's because Android seems to be eating into Microsoft's marketshare and these phones appear to be an attempt to gain some ground back on the lower end of the market. As such, pricing is likely to be key for the Kin, and we don't have those figures yet.

I suspect that having no ability to download applications on the phone might well be a deal breaker for many. The ability to add features that way may not interest Microsoft much, but it is something users have gotten very used to over the last couple of years.

Still, as Beta News hints at, we can now guess what the Sidekick team has been up to since Microsoft bought that operation. — Dan Jones, Site Editor, Light Reading Mobile

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