What’s a ‘platform’ to a pre-teen? In my day, it was a type of shoe or something you stood at waiting for a train.

Nowadays platforms are taken much more seriously which is why the new Microsoft Kin ‘socialphones’ are getting a bit of a drubbing from the critics. The problem is they don’t appear to have (or want) one.

I suspect the pre-teens and teens Microsoft wants to buy these devices probably won't consider whether the Kin is part of any bigger software picture. It doesn’t run on a platform - Windows Phone 7 to those who care - and comes with its own mysterious OS.

Developed by partner Sharp, there’s a Kin One and a Kin Two. The differences are the usual ones of memory, screen size, camera resolution, but before mentioning the negatives, let’s focus on the positives.

Both have cameras with usable resolutions, five and eight megapixels, the Two also having the suddenly quite trendy ability to shoot HD video for YouTubery, plus flash and image stabilisation. Both run on Nvidia’s Tegra processor and bear a passing resemblance to the ill-starred T-Mobile SideKick.

The real target is users who want to see what’s happening on Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, and Windows Live, and the Kin will also integrate with the Zune music portal nobody seems to bother with.

What you don’t get is third-party apps (or any apps beyond those on offer with the device), and no Flash or Silverlight support, but this probably isn’t a phone for web browsing. The Kins do support Twitter, but oddly not for photo or video sharing, and have no instant messaging app, surely the best pick-up app ever thought of for the perpetually shy.

You can see a market for this device, but it’s hard to account for what’s missing, which is where the market is going. People don’t just want social networking, even the term is out-of-date. The iPhone has become the desired model for such devices because it has a hoard of clever apps that have adults reaching compulsively for their plastic.

It's a 'socialphone', Microsoft says, at a time when all phones are expected to be social.

Or perhaps this is why it’s a great device. It will be cheap, pre-teens don’t have the money to bust cards anyway, and it’s simple. It does a few things moderately well without over-stretching itself to be part of the whole dreaded platform thing.

This is Fisher-Price computing at its best, or worse, depending on which way you look at it, but let's not dismiss its appeal or sales potential.