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Alas, Poor Sidekick

July 2nd, 2011 · No Comments · Gadgets, Microsoft, Sidekick

I’ve been using the T-Mobile Sidekick since the very first version of the hardware shipped in 2002. One of the earliest smartphones with a full keyboard, excellent AIM support, a decent web browser and cloud data service. What it lacked in extensibility, it made it up for in ease-of-use and clever software design.

The Sidekick was a “good enough” portable internet communication device, no small achievement at the time. As the years passed, the hardware improved quite a bit, the software was refined, and T-Mobile’s data services went from spotty to pretty decent. I upgraded my Sidekick four times over the years, and each time my data just followed my SIM card. It was nice to have a device that simply worked.

The iPhone was released in 2007, but it didn’t have much appeal to me for three reasons:

  • No physical keyboard
  • Weak AIM support, due to lack of push and proxy services
  • AT&T

I stuck with my Sidekick, and found myself actually using the email client editor to write full blog posts, and even part of still unfinished novel.

Once Microsoft bought up Danger, it was clear the whole product was doomed. It didn’t take long before Microsoft screwed up the cloud data center, causing massive downtime and data loss. Then Microsoft spent a billion dollars trying to make the next version of Sidekick, called “Kin”, but by throwing out the good Danger software, they created a Frankenstein monster that no one wanted. Microsoft canceled the whole thing less than two months after releasing it.

In March of 2011, Microsoft decided they didn’t want to have anything to do with the Sidekick legacy, and existing T-Mobile Sidekick users were told that the the cloud and data services would be turned off at the end of May. T-Mobile was stuck, and basically had to tell customers there would be some kind of Android alternative to buy before then.

With my moving out of the country in the middle of July, the only option for me was to cancel my contract when the data service ended, and just go without a smartphone until we get to Germany.

Goodbye, cruel world!

When the data was shutdown, I had practically worn out the keyboard of my Sidekick. The tops of some of the keys had worn away, and the space bar actually had tiny pieces missing.

But in the past year or so, I’ve been using my iPod with a mobile hotspot from Verizon more and more. It’s still a poor AIM device, but there’s tons of apps that make it extremely useful, and it’s a great web browser. I’m longing for a good physical keyboard, though. I suspect in Germany, I’ll be getting an iPhone, and I’ll no longer have a great mobile AIM device any more. But I will have my MacBook Air, which has turned into my favorite tool for writing and general internet use.

But I’ll miss my Sidekick. For the most part, it was a handy, dependable gadget that had some distinct benefits I’ve yet to find in another device.

Leave it to Microsoft to take something good and utterly destroy it.

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