Microsoft's play for the 'all about me' generation -- and what's in it for adults

The Kin smartphone presents some interesting ideas, even if you're not under 25 or focused on constant personal trivia

Full disclosure: I'm 47, and I don't get the passion of 20-somethings to constantly broadcast everything they're doing or thinking, nor do I care what Ashton Kutcher's publicist writes about whatever he's doing or thinking. But however needy and self-indulgent, that passion is real.

Microsoft sees a market here, so it's adapted its not-yet-released Windows Phone 7 platform and the once-professional-oriented Danger platform to something called Kin, a new smartphone announced yesterday and expected to be available in May from Verizon Wireless. Microsoft claims the Kin "helps you navigate your social life."

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What that means is that the Kin acts as a nexus for all your social media accounts, constantly feeding your Facebook, Twitter, email, IM, and such data to your phone -- and letting you update what Microsoft calls the "constant stream of conversation" from your Kin to all those sites and outlets. You can also prioritize your actual friends so that their streams and updates are more frequently updated and more prominently exposed.

The goal is simple: You never are disconnected from the stream of chatter.

Kin also integrates Microsoft's also-ran, sharing-oriented Zune player, allowing access to the online Zune service and syncing to your PC's Zune libary. Of course, the really cool kids that use Macs will be bummed there's no Zune music and video manager app for the Mac, though they can use the onlie Zune service from the Kin. But Microsoft will provide a Mac client to allow content (file) synchronization between a Kin and a Mac.

Despite its social youth focus, the Kin presents some ideas worth considering for an adult audience. One is the highly simplified user interface that lets you, for example, search with location in mind, so the results favor what's near you, such as when looking for a club. You can simply drag the search result to a Search icon and immediately share the link with the group of your choice. That capability could be quite powerful in a collaborative work product should Microsoft or others use it in phones for people who have more in their lives than chattering.

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