In the annals of wireless industry history, this week will go down as a bloodbath for mobile devices. After Microsoft halted work on Kin earlier this week, T-Mobile on Friday said it's no longer selling the Sidekick LX and Sidekick 2008.
However, T-Mobile is apparently leaving the door open for future Sidekick devices. "While we work on the next chapter of our storied Sidekick franchise, T-Mobile will continue to provide our loyal Sidekick customers with product service and support. Stay tuned for exciting updates in the months ahead, which we expect will provide customers with a new and fresh experience," a T-Mobile spokesperson said in an e-mailed statement.
The only thing that's surprising is that the Sidekick still has life. The device, regarded as the first true smartphone, was supposed to live on in Microsoft's social networking-oriented Kin phones, but the software giant abandoned that effort this week due to poor sales and a frosty reception from consumers.
The Sidekick's fate was essentially sealed last October when Microsoft's Danger subsidiary, which runs the Sidekick service, suffered a major database outage that led to some users losing contacts and other personal data stored on their devices.
Microsoft said the outage only affected a "minority" of T-Mobile's approximately one million Sidekick subscribers, but the carrier had to suspend Sidekick sales for more than a month while Microsoft worked to stabilize the service platform. Microsoft was also targeted in class action suits from angry Sidekick customers.
But even without the outage, Microsoft's commitment to future development of the Sidekick has been in doubt for some time. Many T-Mobile customers saw Microsoft's February 2008 acquisition of Danger as a death knell for their beloved Sidekick, and in the wake of the outage neither Microsoft nor T-Mobile would confirm plans to develop future models.
T-Mobile in April 2009 unveiled the Sidekick LX, which was the first Sidekick to run on T-Mobile's 3G data network and which featured GPS, a 3.2-megapixel camera, YouTube video, and support for Microsoft Exchange. The Sidekick LX received solid reviews, and expectations were that the device would help expand the Sidekick's profile beyond its core users.
Microsoft channeled the Danger talent into its top secret Pink development project, from which Kin is belived to have sprung. Kin was seen as the successor to the Sidekick, but despite carrying over the innovative cloud based storage model of the Sidekick, Kin devices didn't gain traction, in large part due to limited features and Verizon's mandatory $30 monthly data plan.
With Microsoft focusing entirely on Windows Phone 7 right now, it's hard to imagine what the next generation of Sidekicks will look like. Perhaps Microsoft will take Kin back to the drawing board and make it fully integrated with Windows Phone 7, thereby enabling it to run third party apps.
In any event, the Sidekick represented innovative thinking at one time, and Microsoft would do well to extract some of its "cool" factor and weave that into its future mobile endeavors.