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Microsoft unveils Kin smart phones aimed at young buyers

With a splashy, musical ad campaign aimed at young buyers, Microsoft Corp. on Monday sought to carve out a piece of the fast-moving smart phone market with a pair of new handsets.

In unveiling its Kin One and Kin Two phones, which will be available through Verizon Wireless starting in May, the company focused largely on the social and musical features of its software.

The Kin’s promotional site featured young people -- many equipped with the new phones -- dancing to live rock music at a local club.

“We built Kin for people who live to be connected, share, express and relate to their friends and family,” said Robbie Bach, president of Microsoft’s Entertainment and Devices Division in a statement.

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Microsoft did not announce the price of the new phones.

To appeal to what it calls the “social generation,” the company has put messaging and social networking features front and center, making it easier for Kin users to access sharing services such as Facebook, Twitter and MySpace.

Users of the phones, for instance, can update their status across several social networks with one tap. The software from Microsoft’s Zune music player is also built in, allowing users who pay a monthly fee to access millions of songs from an online library.

The Kin phones are separate from the new smart phone operating system that Microsoft announced in February. The Windows Phone 7 Series, as it’s known, is Microsoft’s larger play to compete with sophisticated mobile operating systems that run on Apple Inc.'s iPhone and Google Inc.'s Android-powered devices.

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The Kin phones, which do not feature an online application store, run a more limited operating system aimed specifically at younger consumers, a group that many device companies are chasing in earnest.

“We believe that the teen demographic is a critical component of long-term growth in the digital music and mobile markets,” Gene Munster, an analyst at Piper Jaffray & Co., wrote in a note to investors Monday. “Apple is taking its leading position in music and mobile,” he added.

Shares of Microsoft fell 2 cents to $30.32.

david.sarno@latimes.com

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