What the Death of Microsoft Kin Means

by on 07/01/10 at 10:48 pm

Note: This post is a response to Microsoft gives up on the Kin, eyes Windows 7 Phone

Despite customer dissatisfaction with the Microsoft Kin, this failure is an indication of something much more significant.  It’s a true sign of what Paul Rand once said:  “Don’t try to be original; just try to be good”.

Microsoft Kin’s goal was to be the next “social generation” phone.  They tried to be original, and ended up creating and designing a second-rate, sub-par phone.  The user interface for it was bloated, unclear and peppered with an ugly GREEN, which is nothing consistent with Microsoft’s core brand and color scheme.  It’s almost as if they wanted to beat Apple so bad that they thought being original and different would work.

The only difference is Apple’s iPhone is actually GOOD.  They have a good user interface and the industrial hardware is made from the best material available.  Kin is made of cheap plastic, where as the iPhone is made of expensive glass and stainless steel.  Compare the experience of drinking water from a plastic cup versus drinking water from a glass.  Additionally, the user interface on the iPhone is simple, clear and distinct.  When you look at the product you can name Apple as its creators. Looking at the design of the iPhone you can name their values of minimalism, simplicity and emphasis on natural beauty. Looking at the Kin you can barely tell it’s a Microsoft product and it looks like it belongs in a product-line of its own. Looking at the Kin you can see a company that has a weak and transient perception of what its core values are.  You see a company trying to follow trends and be something they’re not because they don’t have a strong brand identity.

What we all can learn from Microsoft’s failure is that being original shouldn’t be the main goal. Originality is usually the by-product of something that’s done really well.  It’s not something you can or should try to be because originality is not an intention.  If you are original it will show in the good work that you do.  The main goal of a designer should be to design something that’s simply good.  I predict that Microsoft will have learned its lesson and that the new Windows 7 Phone will move away from aiming at originality and instead, just aim at designing a good phone.

To end, I will leave you with Paul Rand’s definition of what good design is:

“Good design adds value of some kind, gives meaning, and, not incidentally, can be sheer pleasure to behold; it respects the viewer’s sensibilities and rewards the entrepreneur.”

– Paul Rand

Light Resume Light Freelancer

Author and editor-in-chief of UX Movement. Loves great web experiences and fights for the user.

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