Microsoft/Danger’s Sidekick Tech Any Threat to iPhone?
Published: Monday, February 11, 2008
Just a few quick thoughts on the announcement that Microsoft is acquiring Danger, maker of the Sidekick series of smartphones:
(1) As Backstage readers may recall, I was an avid Sidekick user during the Sidekick II and Sidekick 3 days. With very few reservations, I loved the Sidekicks. Their keyboards were great. Their instant messaging, web browsing, and phone features were great. And they were fun to use.
(2) I struggled with whether to stop using the Sidekick 3 when the iPhone came out, and was not 100% satisfied with the iPhone as a replacement. The Sidekick 3 was a considerably better input device; the iPhone a substantially better output device. To this day, I still think that the Sidekick’s keyboard made me 20 times more efficient at typing, and had more real-world utility as a light business device than the iPhone does—mostly because of the keyboard, but also because of the robust instant messaging, which iPhone still has not come close to matching.
(3) Following the iPhone’s release, it’s become very apparent that Danger had little to no idea how to transition past the Sidekick 2 into fourth-generation products. The Sidekick 3 had basically turned out to be a Sidekick 2 with Bluetooth, a better camera, an SD card slot and a simple media player. Danger’s next products tried a few different avenues, such as Sidekick 3 minus Bluetooth and camera (ID), Sidekick 3 plus higher-resolution display (LX), and Sidekick 3 plus different casing (Slide). None was a breakthrough, and none generated the buzz of past Sidekicks, say nothing of the iPhone—they all actually looked really outdated by comparison. Danger’s lack of forward momentum began to make sense when its founders were revealed to have left the company to start Android, a venture Google purchased and built into a widely-discussed open mobile phone platform.
(4) Now Microsoft’s purchased Danger, and is folding the unit into the gaming and media device unit responsible for the Xbox and Zune. Sure, this could easily be written off as a “who cares” purchase of a has-been smartphone developer by a monolithic entity that doesn’t have a great track record of inspiring innovation. But I have to wonder whether Danger, whether through patents or some key remaining employees, still has some real value to Microsoft, which has developed plenty of versions of its Windows Mobile platform but failed to win over the youth market that Danger captivated with Sidekicks. In a perfect acquisition, Danger’s friendly front end UI and cool device designs could make Windows Mobile applications a real rival for the iPhone’s, a device generation from now.
(5) But to be realistic, the iPhone’s touch interface, automatic screen reorientation, superior multimedia capabilities, and soon-to-be-sort-of-open development environment don’t leave Danger with much to brag about. Whatever ease of use the Sidekick once had, the iPhone has trumped, except where the keyboard and instant messaging stuff is concerned—and did Microsoft really need to buy the company for that? Or is it Danger’s backend technology and servers, which handled pre-processing of web and other data to boost GPRS- and EDGE-era Sidekick data speeds? Or Danger’s near-million subscribers? Or something else?
Sidekick fans, feel free to weigh in. I’d be curious to hear what you think of this deal.
If you have a comment, news tip, advertising inquiry, or coverage request, a question about iPods or accessories, or if you sell or market products, read iLounge's Comments + Questions policies before posting, and fully identify yourself if you do. We will delete comments containing advertising, astroturfing, trolling, personal attacks, offensive language, or other objectionable content, then ban and/or publicly identify violators. Wondering why we're talking about something other than iPods? Check the Archives: Backstage has been here and kicking it since 2004.
- Apple TV adds FOX Now, CNBC channels
- Popular Bitcoin wallet app Blockchain returns to App Store
- Report: Apple Stores to support carrier early iPhone upgrade programs
- Report: Apple buying talk radio app Swell
- Congress passes bill to legalize phone unlocking
- Bose sues Beats over noise-canceling patents
- iLounge Game Spotlight: Modern Combat 5: Blackout
- Apps of the Week: ShipAntics, Modern Combat 5, This American Life 3.0 + more
- Report: Apple could launch own mobile wallet this fall
- Report: Apple ‘tentatively’ plans mid-September iPhone event
- Kenu Airframe+ Portable Car Mount
- Incipio offGRID Smart Bluetooth Low Energy-Enabled Portable 6000mAh Backup Battery
- Divoom Voombox Travel Rugged Portable Wireless Speaker
- Logitech protection+ for iPhone 5/5s and +trip
- Beats Powerbeats2 Wireless
- Incipio Steno Ultra-Thin Bluetooth Keyboard Folio for iPad Air
- OtterBox Resurgence Power Case for iPhone 5/5s
- Gumdrop Cases FoamTech Case for iPad Air
- Ztylus Camera Case + RV-2 Revolver Lens for iPhone 5/5s
- JBL Synchros Reflect In-Ear Sport Headphones
- What’s New in iTunes 12
- iLounge Picks: Five Great Summer Party Speakers
- Editorial: Endings And Beginnings
- Live From CE Week 2014: Brand New iPad, iPhone + Mac Accessories!
- What’s New In iOS 8 For iPad, iPhone + iPod touch
- iLounge Multi-Editorial: WWDC 2014’s iOS 8, OS X Yosemite + More
- The Complete Guide to Apple TV Channels
- iHistory: From iPod + iTunes to iPhone, Apple TV + iPad, 2001 to 2010
- iHistory: From iPod + iTunes to iPhone, Apple TV + iPad: 2011 to Today
- Viewing only downloaded iTunes Match tracks