In a move that signals an end of an era and carries a hint of irony, T-Mobile and Microsoft (s msft) today said they will end the Danger Service for existing Sidekick devices on May 31 as the carrier prepares to release new Android-based Sidekicks. The move means that the last few remaining Sidekicks will lose the data connections that bring them web pages, pictures and contacts and will only be able to serve as dumb phone and SMS devices.
It’s the end of the road for the current Sidekicks, which were pioneers when they first appeared in 2002. The phones presaged the big smartphone era along with our current obsession with mobile apps and also pointed the future to more cloud-based devices that communicated with and drew their intelligence from remote servers. That reliance on the Danger Service was made painfully clear in 2009 when Microsoft, which bought Sidekick maker Danger in 2008, struggled with a wipeout of Sidekick data.
Now T-Mobile is in the process of transitioning to new devices. It said in January it was planning on releasing a 4G Sidekick device this spring. It appears that existing Sidekick users will have a choice of migrating to a new Android-based Sidekick, hopefully in time for the Danger service cutoff, or they can choose to transfer their existing data from the Danger servers. T-mobile said it is offering a web tool at myT-Mobile.com that allows Sidekick users to export their personal data, photos, contacts and other info to a new device, computer or email account. There’s also an app in the Sidekick Catalog designed to make it easy to move data to the Sidekick’s memory card. And many T-Mobile stores can transfer data from that card to a new T-Mobile device.
We shouldn’t be surprised at the transition. The writing was on the wall when Microsoft bought Danger. As T-Mobile spokesman Tom Harlin told PC Magazine: “We think it’s a natural order for products to be replaced by newer technology.” There is some slight irony in the fact that T-Mobile is killing the Danger Service and transitioning its Sidekick brand to Android, considering that Danger founder, Andy Rubin, is now leading the Android charge for Google. But with T-Mobile an early Android backer with a lot invested in the platform, it’s just another sign that Android is increasingly the way of the world for many carriers. But it still marks a major turning point for the brand, which has developed a faithful following among its users over the years.
Sadly, Microsoft has not appeared to do much with its Danger acquisition. It used the pick-up to launch the Kin line of social phones on Verizon (s vz) last year, but it pulled the plug on the effort a short time later in favor of its Windows Phone 7 platform. Verizon later resurrected the phones as simple text messaging devices without some of the data-centric Sidekick like features. Now with the shut down of the Danger Service imminent, there are few vestiges left of the Danger legacy.
Related GigaOM Pro Content (sub req’d):