Long before Apple’s iPhone, another Silicon Valley-based company pioneered the consumer-friendly smart phone. That company was Danger Inc. best known for its T-mobile branded Sidekick (the Paris Hilton smart phone of choice) and its user friendly mobile OS and Internet applications.
As of today, Danger is no more. Instead, the company is being gobbled up by Microsoft’s Entertainment and Devices Division, responsible for overseeing the Zune, XBox, Windows Mobile and Microsoft TV product lines. Of note, Danger was founded by Andy Rubin, Google’s recently appointed Director of Mobile Platforms, following the search giant’s acquisition of Android.
How will Microsoft utilize Danger’s technology and expertise?
Although successful in penetrating the corporate world with its Windows Mobile-powered smart phones, Microsoft hasn’t, until now, shown much interest in developing a consumer-friendly offering. There has long existed the misguided notion that non-business folk aren’t interested in doing much more with their mobile phones other than making calls, sending SMS or listening to music and taking photos. With the introduction of the iPhone, companies — including sleeping giants like Microsoft — are finally waking up.
Microsoft’s press release describes Danger’s customer base as “young and enthusiastic, Internet-savvy and socially inclined”, and that the team at Danger has a “deep understanding of consumers and a hold on what people want from mobility”.
Furthermore, the Entertainment and Devices Division is all about what Microsoft calls “connected experiences”, and it’s in this context where the acquisition has the most potential. Microsoft cites Danger’s mobile Web browsing, instant messaging, games, multimedia, and social networking applications, which in combination with MSN, Xbox, Zune, Windows Live and Windows Mobile technologies, it hopes will give the company a leg up in delivering “industry-leading entertainment and communication experiences”.
How this will translate into tangible products is yet to be seen. While many are already predicting something along the lines of a Windows Mobile-powered Sidekick, alternatively, might we see Danger’s technology and expertise used to deliver a Zune-branded mobile phone? Although fulfilling the company’s “connected experiences” vision, the latter would imply that Microsoft is getting even more into hardware. Currently, the company sells its Windows Mobile smart phone OS and platform to various hardware vendors (which now includes Sony Ericsson) but doesn’t produce handsets of its own. Likewise, Danger is pitched as a “software and services” company and offers a hardware reference design to partners including Motorola and Sharp.