Microsoft writes down $240m on Kin debacle

Microsoft sank at least a quarter of a billion dollars into the Kin, its recently canceled cellphone. This is on top of its $500m acquisition of Danger, absorbed in order to develop it. Notwithstanding Kin's shortcomings as a product, the most entertaining aspect of the cock-up is that it appears to be the result of ego battles in Redmond: rumor has it that Kin was throttled in its billion-dollar crib by an executive who saw it as a threat to Windows Mobile. According to the Daily Beast, in-fighting among the brass now threatens CEO Steve Ballmer himself.


    1. Indeed there are. There’s actually a pretty big community built up around WinMo 6.5. Third-party ROMs are pretty popular.

      Even if you don’t want to flash a different ROM onto the phone, you can still install pretty much any software you feel like installing on the stock ROM, from any source. Even on AT&T, which is pretty shocking, considering how they treat their Android devices.

      Of course, the “install any software you want” part won’t apply to Windows Phone 7. I’m not sure what they’re thinking there. “Yeah, let’s get rid of our only competitive advantage! Great idea!”


  1. It always amazes me to no end just how dumb some supposedly smart companies can be. Why the hell would you sabotage a $750mm investment over ego or even threat to another product? Idiots.

    It is clear that something odd was happening, since they killed it entirely too quickly to really see if it was going to succeed. Almost a billion dollars and untold human resources should not be flushed after a 48 day test period. There’s no way you can see if sales are sufficient in that span of time.

    1. The company may act smart, or dumb, just like Forrest Gump put it. The individual who throttled the product will no doubt have done it in a way that lets him seem either totally unconnected to the fuckup and very connected to some other, viable program, or as the sage who had the guts to pull out in time. Whether that hurt the company more than it would have if they continued on the path, that is to be discussed to no end.

  2. When I read about MS infighting the phrase “Dance, dance my pretties” comes to mind. Why is that?

  3. According to the Daily Beast, in-fighting among the brass now threatens CEO Steve Ballmer himself.

    God, because it would be so bad for Microsoft, and indeed the entire technology industry ecosystem if they canned him.

    *crosses fingers*

  4. Well, there was also the “data” charge Verizon was insisting on, which put the total, minimum monthly charge on the phone at $70.00.

    Since it’s a teenager-focused device, not capable of games and not a true smart phone, the day the data plan requirement was announced pretty much every tech blog declared the Kin dead on arrival. Which was evidently correct.

  5. In San Diego, Microsoft has one of its new “Microsoft Stores” (a pretty amusing example of Apple envy right down to the copied decor), and they have Kin phones prominently displayed. Don’t know if they are actually moving any product.

  6. Worst adverts ever. I’d blame the marketing executive who thought it was a good idea to use creepy sexual predator ads on a product whose name is loosely associated with hick inbreeding.

  7. IBM, 1990s.

    When a company is gets big enough, the management structure takes on a life of its own, and becomes populated by weasels whose aim is to accumulate power at any cost. They have huge egos, but they don’t have the vision of the people who built the company. They don’t know how to run a business- they just know whose *ss to kiss, and they will destroy whatever is necessary to prevent a rival or an enemy from looking good.

  8. Its crazy, they have some amazing technology in the works but that tech never sees the light of day because of all the red tap.

    Kin was never going to be successful, it was a bad idea from the start. I fail to understand how that got the green light when they cancelled Courier, which looked fantastic.

  9. Hanlon’s Razor: “Never attribute to malice/conspiracy that which is adequately explained by stupidity.” What I’m about to say violates this essential axiom – and I’m not saying that MS doesn’t do some stunningly stupid stuff or release really lousy products – clearly, it does.

    For years, Robert X Crigley has been saying that MS intentionally looses money at times to manage it’s revenue performance vis a vis analyst projections. It could be that this is an example of this technique (better than whatever Dell was doing that got itself fined), or this could be a very real loss that was set up by a culture that had for years been launching projects that were designed to be loosers.

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