Microsoft targets young social networkers with new Kin handset

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The Independent Online

Microsoft has unveiled its latest attempt to carve a bigger piece of the cut-throat market for smartphones: a new device called the Kin, which it promised would "help people publish the magazine of their life".

The phone, which has both a touchscreen and a slide-out keyboard, will be on sale in the UK through Vodafone this autumn, but plunges into the US market next month. The software giant announced yesterday that the Kin was being manufactured by Sharp of Japan.

The Kin is Microsoft's first foray into designing its own phones, following the lead of Google, which launched its Nexus One with fanfare last year. Hardware is neither company's forte, but they are both interested in winning customers for their smartphone operating systems, in Microsoft's case Windows and Android in the case of Google.

The Kin is aimed at young people and designed around social networking, with a home screen that is always updating with news of friends and contacts. Microsoft's president of entertainment and devices, Robbie Bach, said at yesterday's launch: "This social generation wants and needs more from their phone."

Vodafone's director of terminals, Patrick Chomet, said the UK-based telecoms giant wanted to be "the strongest provider of data-centric mobile experiences across platforms and operating systems".

The launch of Apple's iPhone in 2007 sent a high-voltage charge through the smartphone market, and the related "app store", from which iPhone owners can download games and other applications, showed how third-party developers can vastly increase the uses for a smartphone – and help boost sales. Microsoft and Google both want to entice developers to create apps for their own operating systems, too.