This morning, I got a close look at Kin, the forthcoming phone from Microsoft and Sharp that's focused on social networking and multimedia playback. (CNET's Ina Fried has more details on what Kin is and is not.)
The Kin is the outgrowth of the much-discussed "Project Pink," which was first rumored to be a "Zune phone" back in 2007. There's some truth to that: the music interface is a lot like the Zune HD, organized around horizontal and vertical menus, and the phones will be able to stream music over the air to Zune Pass subscribers. There's also a built-in FM radio, although it's not an HD Radio like the Zune HD.
You'll be able to transfer digital music files to your device with the Zune client software, which is Windows-only. Unlike the Zune HD, however, the Kin will also be able to load music from a Mac through a special Mac application--it's not a Mac version of the Zune software and exists only for syncing music from your iTunes library.
The main difference between the Kin and the Zune HD is there's no marketplace link on the Kin since the phone won't support third-party apps at launch. Also, the demo unit I saw didn't have the Smart DJ feature that's just been added to the Zune HD, which builds playlists of related music around particular artists, but that could change before launch. (Stay tuned.)
The Kin will come in 4GB and 8GB versions, neither of which offers enough storage for serious music collectors. Music nuts who want a Microsoft device would probably be better off with the Zune HD, which added a 64GB version last week. It's also likely that Windows Phone 7 will come in some models with larger capacity, but I expect those phones to cost more than the Kin because they do more. The Kin is mainly a simple device for staying in touch with friends, not a super phone.