Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Microsoft’s Kin debacle, big embarrassment

It’s sad to see Microsoft’s Kin’s failure. It has become a big embarrassment to Microsoft . Everyone has started trashing the management for the Kin’s failure. With Kin, Microsoft ventured into making a kiddie phone, which would be enjoyed by teenage girls and boys. Alas, they failed miserably. It spent over billion dollars on Kin, which includes the acquisition of Danger (Sidekick). I had a chance to look at both Kin1 and Kin2. The phones UI was cluttered and the form factor was very small. The whole unified view of social networking was a bit complicated. What’s disheartening is the fact that only 500 Kin phones were sold after the launch. Some even say that they could not even recoup the money spent on the launch party.

I have always been critical about Microsoft’s mobile phones and their OS. I tried couple of Smartphone’s that had windows OS and it sucked. For someone who was there from the early days in the Mobile space, I expected lot more innovation than the new crop of companies like Google, Apple or HTC. What a disappointment. I guess they have lost the battle. The iPhones or droids are way better compared to crappy windows mobile. Iam not sure if there are still developers out there working on the Windows Phone 7 train wreck. Stay away! Run, Run, Run. Oh worthy of mention is those TV commercial which sucked bug time. Sometime I feel Microsoft needs to get their act together on the marketing front. In addition, Mobile consumer market is very competitive compared to the Enterprise market. If people have choice, they will buy superior product even if they have to pay the premium (iPhone, iPad etc). No wonder apple is ruling the Mobile Smartphone space.

An unknown Microsoft source talks to Jay Yarrow:

"We had a huge launch party on campus and I bet that party cost more than the amount of revenues we took in on the product. As an employee, I am embarrassed. As a shareholder, I am pissed. It's one thing to incubate products and bring them to a proof-of-concept to see what works, but it's something else to launch. I suspect we launched because we felt like we HAD to so we could save face because we were trying to build buzz, but overall - HUGE fail."


Here are some interesting comments by former and current Microsoft employees including Danger folks on minimsft:

All I can say as a former Windows Mobile employee who is now working for a competitor in the phone space is that this is good news for the rest of us. [...] Personally I quit because of the frustrating management and autocratic decision style of Terry Myerson and Andrew Lees. The only exec in the team myself and other folks respcted was Tom Gibbons who is now sidelined. Lees and Myerson don't know consumer products or phones. Gibbons at least knows consumer product development. We often talk about how Andrew Lees still has a job but Microsoft's loss is a gain for the rest of us.

And

And now Kin is killed *after* it has shipped in June 2010. You can bet Andy was involved in the development of Kin, the partnership agreements with the OEM, Verizon and most importantly the "ship it" approvals all along the way. And Microsoft discovers its a bad idea after it blows up in the broad market. Absolutely no thanks to any pro-active decision making on Andy's part.
Now there is spin that Andy killed kin to put all the wood behind Windows Phone 7. Er, the guy was in charge for two years of Kin development. He could have made this decision far earlier.
Similarly Windows Phone 7 has two years of development under his watch. Based on his past performance, 99% chance this is also going to be a total catastrophe. It further doesn't help that much of the Windows Phone 7 leadership team was kicked out of Windows when they screwed up Vista.

And finally, one Danger-employee's point of view of why they became demotivated:

To the person who talked about the unprofessional behavior of the Palo Alto Kin (former Danger team), I need to respond because I was one of them.
You are correct, the remaining Danger team was not professional nor did we show off the amazing stuff we had that made Danger such a great place. But the reason for that was our collective disbelief that we were working in such a screwed up place. Yes, we took long lunches and we sat in conference rooms and went on coffee breaks and the conversations always went something like this..."Can you believe that want us to do this?" Or "Did you hear that IM was cut, YouTube was cut? The App store was cut?" "Can you believe how mismanaged this place is?" "Why is this place to dysfunctional??"

Please understand that we went from being a high functioning, extremely passionate and driven organization to a dysfunctional organization where decisions were made by politics rather than logic.
Consider this, in less than 10 years with 1/10 of the budget Microsoft had for PMX, we created a fully multitasking operating system, a powerful service to support it, 12 different device models, and obsessed and supportive fans of our product. While I will grant that we did not shake up the entire wireless world (ala iPhone) we made a really good product and were rewarded by the incredible support of our userbase and our own feelings of accomplishment. If we had had more time and resources, we would of come out with newer versions, supporting touch screens and revamping our UI. But we ran out of time and were acquired and look at the results. A phone that was a complete and total failure. We all knew (Microsoft employees included) that is was a lackluster device, lacked the features the market wanted and was buggy with performance problems on top of it all.

When we were first acquired, we were not taking long lunches and coffee breaks. We were committed to help this Pink project out and show our stuff. But when our best ideas were knocked down over and over and it began to dawn on us that we were not going to have any real affect on the product, we gave up. We began counting down to the 2 year point so we could get our retention bonuses and get out.

I am sorry you had to witness that amazing group behave so poorly. Trust me, they were (and still are) the best group of people ever assembled to fight the cellular battle. But when the leaders are all incompetent, we just wanted out.

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1 comment:

Steve Ballmer said...

We planned it this way the whole time people!