Is Microsoft's Danger play a poke at Apple? Google? (updated)

Is Microsoft's Danger play a poke at Apple? Google? (updated)

Summary: Microsoft said Monday that they're acquiring Palo Alto, CA-based Danger Inc., maker of the T-Mobile Sidekick QWERTY smartphone.

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Danger Sidekick 3Microsoft said Monday that they're acquiring Palo Alto, CA-based Danger Inc., maker of the T-Mobile Sidekick QWERTY smartphone.

Sidekicks feature a novel flip-up screen that reveals a full-size keyboard making easy work of texting and email. It could even be argued that the Sidekick (which the company brands "Hiptop") was one of the pioneers of the QWERTY smartphones. Wikipedia has a good history of the device.

So what's Microsoft's interest in Danger, Inc.? Their Windows Mobile platform conflicts with Danger's proprietary OS. According to Danger's developer Web site:

Danger has written its own operating system and JVM for the hiptop. The Operating system has preemptive multitasking and a soft real-time scheduler, and it has been tuned specifically for running our JVM. All end-user applications are written in Java, as is the overwhelming majority of the high-level operating system. Arguably, Danger has the premiere "Java Operating System" on the market today.

Microsoft said the acquisition will align Danger's expertise in the mobile-consumer space with Microsoft's focus on expanding its mobile offerings.

"The addition of Danger serves as a perfect complement to our existing software and services, and also strengthens our dedication to improving mobile experiences centered around individuals and what they like," said Robbie Bach, Microsoft's president of entertainment and devices.

Full coverage of Robbie Bach's keynote address at Mobile World Congress 2008 in Spain is on MSN Money Central.

iLounge has a good analysis of the Sidekick timeline:

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.

(emphasis mine)

Clearly Microsoft isn't buying Danger for the Hiptop OS. The acquisition appears to be a hardware play. Microsoft most likely wants to leverage Danger's experience building mobile handsets to develop a ZunePhone to compete with iPhone and the Google phone. iLounge contends that Microsoft is "folding the unit into the gaming and media device."

It's a curious move though because Microsoft has always maintained that they don't want to be a hardware company and want to leave that side of the business to their partners.

What's your take on the MS acquisition of Danger? Hardware play? Portable gaming device? iPhone/gPhone hedge? Chime in.

Update: Danger co-founder Joe Britt is ex WebTV and 3DO and along with Matt Hershenson are both ex Catapult (think Xbox Live over POTS, circa 1995).

Topics: Software, Apple, Google, Microsoft, Mobility, Operating Systems

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28 comments
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  • No, it pokes at M$'s current smartphone partners

    Once again M$ has proven that they will burn any
    partner foolish enough to support them.

    Now every producer of M$ smartphones has to wonder when
    they will get the Dear John email that M$ now makes
    their own smartphones and so doesn't need them anymore.


    -HJC
    hcobb
    • Yes, it was a very carefully worded release to not piss off

      partners too much. But, the handwriting is on the wall, and they will probably now switch their phones to Android.
      DonnieBoy
  • RE: Is Microsoft's Danger play a poke at Apple? Google? (updated)

    I think M$ is sending a very clear signal. MSN & our search is a failure. Windows Mobile/CE is a near failure. We can't innovate anymore. Our fearless leader is gone and we are going to spend the kitty trying to hold on to our market share. It's no longer about buying the competition to retain market dominance, it's about buying products to replace/bolster our failures. ***This just in: Microsoft has sent a letter to Linus/Steve offering to buy both OS X and Linux! - Stock market teetering on the brink! More at 11.***
    zdnet74
    • It is also about getting Windows mobile / Zune on as many phones as

      possible. If they have to buy phone companies and force them to put Windows Mobile / CE, they WILL. Microsoft is a cornered animal with lots of money.
      DonnieBoy
  • MS also clearly stated they would never

    get into the MP3 market, but instead would do the whole PlayForSure thing.

    I'll have to dig up the post where I predicted within two years of the iPhone's release,
    MS would come out with their own Phone.

    Does anyone remember how Ballmer laughed Apple to scorn when he learned they
    were releasing a cell phone?
    frgough
  • RE: Is Microsoft's Danger play a poke at Apple? Google? (updated)

    I looked at the picture of the device on this page and just thought omg, compete with the iPhone?, you have to be kidding!

    This is yet another device that will appeal to geeks but leave the masses cold, just like the Zune.

    What with the ludicrous Yahoo offer you have to wonder how desperate current MS management are.
    BobF_z
    • We used to be friends

      I think M$ is buying into Danger because the phone has
      been featured on Veronica Mars.

      Hopefully this means that the rest of us will get
      touchscreen dialing like she has with this device. ;-)
      hcobb
    • not what was stated

      In the article, it was mentioned that MS was interested in their expertise with mobile hardware, not rebadging the sidekick into an iPhone competitor. The graphic on the page is just the old sidekick.

      With the cash MS has on hand, they are probably looking to expand into other areas, I hardly think they're "desperate".

      As for the Zune, it gained a 10% market share almost immediately upon release, I don't think it's just geeks using it. I prefer Creative myself, but a Zune Phone, if it's in the works, would be a welcome competitor.
      coffeeshark
      • read the title of the article -nt

        nt
        BobF_z
        • Read the whole thing

          You can't comment based on a title geared at sucking in readers and and a picture that you didn't even recognize and expect to sound intellegent.
          laura.b
          • True but....

            I can at least be polite, try it some time
            BobF_z
          • I would ask you to do the same

            Telling someone to read the title when they pointed out to you what you would have known had you read the article was just as rude as me informing you that people will not take you seriously if you don't read the article, admit to it, and for some unknown reason advocate that others do the same.

            I didn't insult you. You're just mad that you got called out and all of a sudden your post didn't look to bright.

            What I said was that you can't expect to read just the title and look at a picture that you don't recognize and expect to sound intellegent. There's nothing false or insulting there. You didn't sound intellegent. That doesn't mean you are dumb.
            laura.b
      • You are pulling our leg...... right? - NT

        NT
        raycote
      • Ha! Misleading BS on the Zune

        from RDM:

        NPD's Smoke and Mirror Market Share Numbers
        The best sounding news about Zune sales came from NPD. It reported that the
        Zune had taken 10.2% of the market in December. That would represent a dramatic
        and impressive first showing, even if it only represented a rush of early adopters. In
        reality however, NPD's numbers were grossly misleading for a number of reasons.

        Data Source: First, NPD only reports on subset of retailers, mostly big box stores.
        That section of the market would represent the majority of Zune sales, because
        Microsoft lacks major direct sales channels; it has no retail stores, nor does it
        operate a web store selling lots of Zunes.

        Apple, on the other hand, has a series of web stores serving education and the
        general public; a significant retail presence of its own, with over a billion in sales
        last quarter; and lots of school campus stores selling lots of iPods. Apple also sells
        a lot of its iPods through other direct channels, including mail order and other web
        stores.

        Defined Market: Even more disturbing about NPD's 10.2% was that it was based
        only on the "market for 30 GB hard drive players." In other words, NPD
        gerrymandered a Ballmeresque "market" based on the Zune's description,
        comparing it only against Apple's smaller capacity, full sized iPod model.

        Users buying a full size iPod are tempted to spend another $100 to get nearly three
        times the capacity in the 80 GB model. Why cut those buyers out of the "Zune
        market?" To create an intentionally false story, of course.

        Sales Period: When counting all music players, NPD only reported 2.8% market
        share for the Zune. But it was still only able to do that by creating a special five
        week period that added in the Zune's debut week in November with the rest of
        December. How convenient, because Zune sales imploded after its initial debut
        week.

        Once again, NPD?s numbers excluded the Apple Stores' billion in sales, and all of
        the direct iPod sales, including popular online sources such as Amazon; recall that
        it was Amazon's popular sales reports that documented the rapid freefall of Zune
        sales after its debut week.

        NPD simply pulled out all the stops in trying to define a set of circumstances that
        would suggest that Zune sales amounted to anything worth mentioning. It even
        appeared to invent the concept of weekly market share reports, and only
        abandoned them after it became clear that the tactic wasn?t helping to flatter the
        Zune.

        Growth Segment: At the same time, NPD initially reported that Apple's overall share
        of the entire market for music players had actually increased substantially over the
        previous year, from 42% to 57%. Again, that excluded all of Apple's retail stores and
        other direct sales.

        Obviously, the Zune didn't eat into iPod sales at all, but only cannibalized the sales
        of its PlaysForSure partners, primarily SanDisk and Creative, the two brightest
        luminaries of the PlaysForSure universe.
        rwahrens1952
    • MSFT = the gang that could not shoot straight

      Let us hope it acquires Yahoo. It will be one further nail in the coffin for a firm that
      had only one competitive advantage: abusive business practices.

      MSFT has no unique capability apart from that. Since the EU and Justice stopped
      the Bloatfarm from abusing "partners", the Redmond dungheap has nothing to
      offer except more "features" confusion and complexity.

      Hello, Bloatfarm, we already have more than enough. Could you make it

      EASIER
      EASIER
      EASIER
      EASIER

      not more complex?

      Of course not.
      Jeremy W
  • Maybe the troubling thing for MS is that manufacturers are ditching

    Windows mobile for Linux based phones. The manufacturers do not want one company with a monopoly in cell phone OSes sucking all of the profits out.

    So, MS decided they would have to develop their own Zune Phone, since manufacturers are not biting. Notice the carefully worded statement to not piss off existing partners.
    DonnieBoy
    • DonnieBoy in LaLa Land

      DonnieBoy:

      "Maybe the troubling thing for MS is that manufacturers are ditching Windows mobile for Linux based phones. The manufacturers do not want one company with a monopoly in cell phone OSes sucking all of the profits out."

      Not that I think you ponder this very often, but do you realize just how stupid you sound making statements like this? Or are you unaware that SymbianOS shipped on over [b]77 million[/b] mobile devices last year? That figure is quite a bit higher than [b]all[/b] WinMobile [b]plus[/b] iPhone devices combined.

      Wise up.
      M.R. Kennedy
      • Symbian OS will continue to have success for the near future, no argument

        with you there. Nokia is about 1000x more open than MS.

        What I am arguing is that Microsoft has had a lot of trouble getting manufacturers and carriers to carry Windows Mobile. They bought Danger in part to increase the market for Windows Mobile and maybe get a critical mass. If you look at the excitement around Android, and Linux in general, it does not look good for Windows Mobile.

        And, Nokia will phase out Symbian eventually. They understand that in the long term they can not compete against completely free and open platforms like Android.
        DonnieBoy
        • Read for comprehension

          DonnieBoy:

          "Symbian OS will continue to have success for the near future, no argument with you there. Nokia is about 1000x more open than MS."

          I made no comments WRT how open any particular mobile OS happened to be. What I [b]did[/b] comment on was how dumb you look making your usual outlandish statements concerning Microsoft, its products, and its general business success. There seem to be a fair number of smartphones out there using WinMobile 5 and 6, and I certainly haven't seen evidence of handset manufacturers "dumping" WinMobile 5 or 6 lately.

          "What I am arguing is that Microsoft has had a lot of trouble getting manufacturers and carriers to carry Windows Mobile. They bought Danger in part to increase the market for Windows Mobile and maybe get a critical mass. If you look at the excitement around Android, and Linux in general, it does not look good for Windows Mobile."

          No, you didn't say that in your original post. My take on Microsoft's acquisition of Danger is that the Sidekick appears to be an excellent starting point for Microsoft to introduce the dreaded "ZunePhone". Considering how well the Sidekick sells, it's not that far-fetched an idea.

          "And, Nokia will phase out Symbian eventually. They understand that in the long term they can not compete against completely free and open platforms like Android."

          I'm so glad that you have the ear of the Nokia BoD and engineering staff. ;) Considering that Android, presuming that it follows up on all of its promises, is likely to be a couple of years away from real-world use, I tend to doubt that either Nokia or Symbian are quaking in their figurative boots.

          And neither is Microsoft.
          M.R. Kennedy
  • Another Bloatfarm declaration of failure

    Clearly, this is another declaration of MSFT failure. The
    Bloatmeisters have seen how quickly the iPhone has taken away
    share from the regrettable WM platform because of its lack of
    hardware/software interface and the MSFT-ian lack of
    creativity.

    The MSFT bloatmeisters are so utterly habituated toward
    producing the tiny update on last year's junk interface that they
    are incapable of seeing what users REALLY want. The
    bloatmeisters are always seeking more features and more
    (mostly superfluous) choices when they should be seeking
    better choices.

    Users mostly do not want two dozen ways to accomplish
    something; they want 2-3 (at most!) ways to do something.
    Moreover, they are sick to death of nested and embedded
    menus to accomplish anything. Have the MSFT bloatmeisters
    ever produced anything without a plethora of nested menus
    and "features"?

    Danger represents just another burned out case that the
    Bloatmeisters will use to attempt to foist more bloat on cell
    phone users.

    Earth to Bloatfarm: been there/done that. It is no longer
    interesting to have dozens of useless features; please do the
    hard part: GET IT RIGHT; DO NOT MAKE ME FISH THROUGH ALL
    THE MSFT SH!T to find how to do something. MAKE IT EASY!

    Of course, one might as well expect water not to be wet. It is
    of the essence of a Bloatfarm to be bloated, is it not?

    Get ready for another failure. Can you say Xbox, Zune, Vista,
    and now, a new and un-enhanced WM experience with new
    bloat!

    MSFT is a good short; let us hope it is successful with Yahoo.
    It will be a bigger short.
    Jeremy W