T-Mobile in the U.S. has halted sales of its Sidekick mobile phones after a series of gaffes left users unable to access their data, and in some cases led to the data being deleted permanently. According to Microsoft/Danger—Microsoft purchased Danger, the company behind the Sidekick, in February 2008—the service interruption began on October 2, and continued for the next few days for most users. Some users never had their data restored, however, and T-Mobile has announced to those Sidekick users that “based on Microsoft/Danger’s latest recovery assessment of their systems, we must now inform you that personal information stored on your device – such as contacts, calendar entries, to-do lists or photos – that is no longer on your Sidekick almost certainly has been lost as a result of a server failure at Microsoft/Danger… [O]ur teams continue to work around-the-clock in hopes of discovering some way to recover this information. However, the likelihood of a successful outcome is extremely low.”
T-Mobile at first offered a free month of data service to those affected, but is now said to be letting upset users out of their contracts at no fee due to the problem. The timing of the incident and subsequent announcement couldn’t be worse for the Microsoft/Danger team, which has been the subject of a couple of recent articles describing how Microsoft’s attempt to refocus the Sidekick team on a secret feature phone project, codenamed “Pink,” has been a failure. Both articles contain information supposedly provided by inside sources, who told of disgruntled employees, incompetent management, and a policy of secrecy that kept the team isolated from the company’s other mobile platform teams.
Before the release of the iPhone, several iLounge editors used older versions of Sidekicks, which managed to gain a large share of the teen market and offered real-time AIM, email, and web access, with well-received hardware keyboard. Following the iPhone’s release, however, Danger struggled to move the platform forward with subsequent revisions of the device, despite maintaining a loyal userbase even in the face of strong competition from the iPhone and other more recent smartphones.