For a fleeting second -- but not much more than that -- I was worried. Here's Microsoft, unveiling its new "Kin" (or KIN, if you ask them) dumber-than-a-smartphone, smarter-than-a-dumbphone pair of devices for Verizon and Vodafone. And here's me, imagining the following conversation:
MOM: OK, All I want is to get my daughter something that can take pictures, text, post to her Facebook and maybe that Twitter thing.
VERIZON DUDE: Sure thing, ma'am. Here's the Kin One. It's new. It's hip. It's perfect for someone your daughter's age. Facebook? No problem. Surf the Web Sure thing. She texts a lot? Well, this one (Kin Two) has a bigger keyboard, and a better camera, with a whopping 8 megapixels. Couple of swipes, and she's sharing with all her friends.
MOM: Sounds great! And it can download apps, right?
VERIZON DUDE: Oh.
And therein lies the problem. Taking the operating system out of the equation -- be it Android, Windows Mobile, Symbian, whatever -- is fine. HTC's Sense does a pretty good job of that with Android (and a really good job in Windows Mobile). Motoblur we're not nearly as smitten with, but the principle's the same. Same with Samsung's Touchwiz 3.0. Make the phone do the social networking work for you.
But take the heart out of a platform -- and these days, easily downloadable applications are the heart of any smartphone experience -- and you're left with a less-than-capable platform. Kin One and Kin Two might well be priced less than every Android phone available on Verizon. But they also will be capable of less, and that will be their downfall.