Microsoft struggling to keep pace with times

Kins kill reflects firms failure to build cool products for GenX

Microsoft struggling to keep pace with times

Microsoft's Kin smartphone

But last week, less than two months after Kins arrived in stores, Microsoft said it would kill the products.

“That’s a record-breaking quick end to a product, as far as I am concerned,” said Michael Cronan, a designer who helped drive the branding of products like Kindle for Amazon and TiVo. “It did seem like a big mistake on their part.”

The Kins’ flop adds to a long list of products — from watches to music players — that have plagued Microsoft’s consumer division, while its business group has suffered as well through less-than-successful offerings like Windows Vista and Windows for tablet computers. Fewer than 10,000 Kins were sold.

In particular, the Kin debacle is a reflection of Microsoft’s struggle to deliver what younger generation of technology-obsessed consumers wants. From hand-held products to business software, Microsoft seems behind the times.

Waning attraction

The list of Microsoft’s consumer product slip-ups grows each year. Its line of intelligent watches — come and gone — often ends up as the butt of jokes, as do its tablet PC software products, the poor-selling Windows Vista operating system and the ignored Zune music player. The company also canceled its Courier tablet PC project shortly after the Apple iPad tablet went into stores. Part of its problem may be that its ability to intrigue and attract software developers is also waning, which threatens its ability to steer markets over the long term. When it comes to electronic devices, people writing software have turned their attention to platforms from Apple and Google.

Meanwhile, young technology companies today rely on free, open-source business software rather than Microsoft’s products, so young students, soon to be looking for jobs, have embraced open-source software as well. “Microsoft is totally off the radar of the cool, hip, cutting-edge software developers,” said Tim O’Reilly, who publishes software development guides. “And they are largely out of consciousness of your average developer.”

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