Videos purporting to show Microsoft's internal testing of Kin show just how bad it was, and make Redmond's decision to launch the social phone all the more remarkable.
The videos, hosted by Wired, show the two Kin devices that Microsoft lunched back in 2010 being put through their paces, or rather being pushed through them, as latency problems cripple the highly animated interface and the testers become increasingly frustrated as their taps are interpreted as swipes - and their swipes all but ignored - by the underpowered or badly programmed devices.
"I don't know if it's me not touching enough or the lag," says one tester, whose hands are the only thing visible on the recordings. "I can imagine my daughter would give this back very quickly." The lack of response is evident as users try to scroll around the interface, but Wired reckons the software was very close to shipping and only marginally improved before launch.
"This phone would have gone back if I'd paid for it," says one of the testers, also in the first of the three videos, which also see someone complaining that the slow launch of the camera app makes it useless for "anything spontaneous".
The second video doesn't have sound, but shows two users trying to dial phone numbers as the software refuses to recognise taps or, sometimes, queues them up so several taps are delivered when only one was wanted. That inconsistency was, apparently, the most irritating part of the experience. Apparently, the testers could cope with slow, but slow-fast-slow was impossible to deal with - as demonstrated in the third video, which shows a user frantically scrabbling across the screen in the hope of eliciting a response from the pebble-sized hardware.
The Kin was launched in April 2010, two years after Microsoft bought in developer talent from T-Mobile Sidekick-maker Danger in 2008. Redmond reportedly spent a billion dollars developing the Kin, which was launched in the US to universal indifference at best, never made it to Europe at all, and was being killed off entirely within six months - having sold fewer than 10,000.
But it wasn't the performance which killed the Kin, though there were some reports of inconsistent responses. What stopped people buying a Kin was the $70 monthly tariff which was supposed to fund the clever cloud services which made Kin special. Verizon did try to sell off the remaining stock without those services (or the fee), but the damage had already been done.
Had the Kin sold well, those interface issues would probably have been more important, and these videos more damning, but the handful of users who did shell out for a Kin were too busy defending their decision to complain about UI responsiveness, so the fact that Microsoft launched a product that tested poorly isn't as bad as it looks. ®