Kin One and Kin Two: Seussian Naming


This item was originally published on April 15, 2010 at Fast Company.

I decided to blog about the new Microsoft Kin name even though I know that the name makes absolutely no difference to Microsoft, its target audience, or its stockholders. In that way it’s a lot like the iPad: an okay name that got a lot of attention when it was announced, but which quickly faded into the background as the device itself grabbed the spotlight.

I get why they chose the name: the phone is supposed to be part of your family. It’s friendly, a short word that’s easy to say and that fits really well on the GUI. It’s amazing that Microsoft managed to get the TM for a short, three-letter real English word*. (Having named the Palm Pre, Catchword can attest to the power – and the difficulty! – of that achievement.) It stands up just fine to the rest of the phone names on the market, and fits in very well with the MS naming style of using real English words.

I’m still not sure whether The Cat in the Hat reference was intentional, but I have to assume it was. Perhaps the next generation will be called Little Phone A and Little Phone B, right on through Little Phone Z, the nanophone. In any case, they’re cute names for cute little phones!

So, some good pros. How about the cons?

  • The name really reminds me of Kindle.
  • “Kin” is a bit of a folksy, old-fashioned word – will it resonate with the 20-somethings who are the target? Do they even know what it means?
  • The name really reminds me of Kindle.
  • There might be a bit of confusion with people who aren’t familiar with the word because of pronunciation in the south and west – “kin” and “ken” are pronounced exactly the same.
  • It really sounds like Kindle. If you saw the Kindle and Kin advertised in the same place, wouldn’t you think they were related? (Pun totally intended)

But I started off by saying that the name wouldn’t really matter, and despite the Kindle thing, the target audience won’t really care what it’s called – just that it works. Its predecessor in the market, the Sidekick, wasn’t a big hit because of the name, and the iPad will succeed because it’s cool and does what it’s supposed to, not to mention making people want to touch it. If the Kin delivers, it’ll sell.

And who knows – maybe there’s a chance for a Dr. Seuss co-brand. I’d buy a phone with Thing One on it!

*OK, they do have that 5-story building full of lawyers. Maybe not so amazing.


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