No Kin phones for Asia, Microsoft says

Microsoft not holding talks with Asian operators make handsets available

Microsoft has no plans to bring its newly announced Kin handsets to Asia, despite the large size and relative sophistication of Asian cell-phone markets, a company spokeswoman said Tuesday.

The Kin handsets, which will be available in two models, are designed for users who want access to social networking services and videos from their cell phones, according to Microsoft. The handsets will go on sale in the U.S. next month through Verizon Wireless. Vodafone will start selling the phones in Europe later this year.

Microsoft is not holding talks with Asian operators to offer the Kin, said Lena Goh, a spokeswoman for Microsoft in Singapore, noting that distribution agreements signed with Verizon Wireless and Vodafone were exclusive.

Both Vodafone and Verizon Wireless, which is a joint venture between Vodafone and Verizon Communications, worked with Microsoft to develop the Kin handsets, she said.

While Kin is slated to be released in the U.S. and Europe, Microsoft is focusing its Asian mobile efforts on the upcoming release of Windows Phone 7, Goh said.

If the Kin does make it to Asia, Vodafone could play a central role.

Vodafone has several significant investments in Asia, including Vodafone Essar, an Indian carrier with 94 million cellular subscribers. Vodafone also has subsidiaries in Australia and New Zealand, and it owns minority stakes in Indian carrier Bharti Airtel and in China Mobile, the world's largest cellular operator.

Vodafone sold its Japanese subsidiary to Softbank in 2006, but the companies remain partners. In 2008, they teamed up with China Mobile to create the Joint Innovation Lab, a project to develop mobile Internet services. Verizon Wireless joined the group in 2009.

Vodafone has made no mention of plans to bring the Kin handsets to Asia. The operator plans to first offer the Kin in Germany, Italy, Spain and the U.K., and will also make the handsets available in other European markets, according to a company statement.

Vodafone executives could not be reached for comment.

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Sumner Lemon

IDG News Service
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