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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Microsoft to buy phone maker Danger

Is Microsoft’s Danger play a poke at Apple? Google?

Microsoft 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.


The software giant said Monday that it's acquiring Danger, the Palo Alto, Calif.-based maker of the T-Mobile Sidekick for an undisclosed amount.

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," Microsoft entertainment unit President Robbie Bach said in a statement.

Microsoft Buys Danger, Sidekick Makers

Microsoft’s wad may have failed to woo Yahoo yesterday, but they’ve had more luck flashing the cash at the software firm Danger Inc, makers of the software that powers T-Mobile’s hugely successful SideKick web phone.

Also known as the Hiptop, the gadget has proved a hit with American schlebs, including the ever-vacuous Paris Hilton.

Microsoft said that it saw the Sidekick’s customer base as, “young and enthusiastic, Internet-savvy and socially inclined,” while bigging up the Danger team as having, “a deep understanding of consumers and a hold on what people want from mobility, making it an ideal group to work with in delivering connected experiences.”

Speaking at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Robbie Bach, Microsoft’s president of entertainment and devices, said: “It completes the picture for us in terms of making the transition from just being on the business side of things to being on the consumer side of things.”

We can’t say that the Sidekick has ever hastened our heartbeats, but for chattering teens, hyperactive night hawks and celebs out for night on the Columbian marching powder, the quick instant messaging, e-mail and web access has made the phone something of a cultural icon.

With the dust still settling from the back-slapping, Jupiter Research analyst Michael Gartenberg described Microsoft’s acquisition as the “real excitement” of the first day of the Mobile World beano.

“The SideKick had strong appeal as the anti-Blackberry for younger audiences and it will be really interesting to see how Microsoft integrates the technology, business model, and overall device cachet to a culture more at home to selling to enterprise CIOs than it is to selling rock stars,” he observed.

Microsoft hopes that by mixing up Danger’s Web browsing, e-mail, instant messaging, games, multimedia, and social networking expertise with Microsoft’s MSN and Windows Live assets, they could create something truly fantabulous to overshadow the fast-rising iPhone.

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