Sidekick Fiasco Reflects Poorly on Microsoft

A service disruption last week for T-Mobile USA subscribers using Danger (now Microsoft) Sidekicks turned into something much worse, with reports surfacing that Sidekick-wielding customers have suffered irrevocable data loss as a result of a Microsoft server outage.

A notice posted on the T-Mobile website this weekend said, in part:

Regrettably, based on Microsoft/Danger’s latest recovery assessment of their systems, we must now inform you that personal information stored on your device – such as contacts, calendar entries, to-do lists or photos – that is no longer on your Sidekick almost certainly has been lost as a result of a server failure at Microsoft/Danger. That said, our teams continue to work around-the-clock in hopes of discovering some way to recover this information. However, the likelihood of a successful outcome is extremely low. As such, we wanted to share this news with you and offer some tips and suggestions to help you rebuild your personal content. You can find these tips in our Sidekick Contacts FAQ. We encourage you to visit the Forums on a regular basis to access the latest updates as well as FAQs regarding this service disruption.

In addition, we plan to communicate with you on Monday (Oct. 12) the status of the remaining issues caused by the service disruption, including the data recovery efforts and the Download Catalog restoration which we are continuing to resolve. We also will communicate any additional tips or suggestions that may help in restoring your content.

We recognize the magnitude of this inconvenience. Our primary efforts have been focused on restoring our customers’ personal content. We also are considering additional measures for those of you who have lost your content to help reinforce how valuable you are as a T-Mobile customer.

We continue to advise customers to NOT reset their device by removing the battery or letting their battery drain completely, as any personal content that currently resides on your device will be lost.

So, barring a last-minute data-recovery miracle, Sidekick users are up excrement creek without the aid of a propulsive instrument.

Who is to blame for this fiasco? T-Mobile has pointed the heavy finger of blame at Microsoft, and it’s difficult to quibble with that judgment. Even if the server outage, and consequent collapse of the Sidekick network, resulted from a failed upgrade involving a Hitachi SAN — as has been rumored — Microsoft must take the blame completely and unreservedly.

Since acquiring Danger for $500 million in 2008, Microsoft owned not only the acquired company’s assets, including the Sidekick, but also the responsibility for taking care of them. Given that Danger engineers have been bolting from Microsoft as if they were fleeing a burning building — and considering that Microsoft never seemed to have a coherent integration strategy for the Danger assets it obtained — I suppose this latest debacle shouldn’t come as a complete surprise.

Still, how can a company such as Microsoft not have server redundancy and failover in place for any online service offered to the paying public? It’s inexcusable, even inexplicable.

The more conspiracy-minded among us might be forgiven for thinking that Microsoft, having concluded that it had no good plan for Danger’s assets, wanted to kill the Sidekick while casting aspersions on the whole idea of cloud computing.

Usually, though, the simplest explanation is the correct one. In this case, the simple explanation is that Microsoft was derelict, incompetent, and negligent — but not malicious.

I suppose the entire shambolic episode demonstrates that Microsoft just didn’t care about the Sidekick or those who used it. The software giant, which never has been particularly adroit at addressing consumers’ desires, treated Sidekicks’ users with an indifference bordering on disdain. How else to explain the lack of server redundancy or the dearth of adequate support resources?

For a long time, I’ve held that Microsoft needs to look in the mirror and recognize its own image: a strong business-software company with pretensions to consumer greatness. Drop the consumer pretensions, Microsoft. You and your shareholders, in the long run, will be all the better for it.

In the meantime, we can only wonder how well Danger would have fared in other hands, or how much more good would have resulted if Microsoft had transferred that $500 million to Bill Gates’ philanthropic efforts; or, less exaltedly, to shareholders as dividends.

Because, make no mistake, this probably marks the end of the Sidekick, and — for all intents and purposes — of what little remains of Danger, too.


One response to “Sidekick Fiasco Reflects Poorly on Microsoft

  1. Microsoft is not a good company, not as good as alot of people think. They are often incompetant, careless and as a result of their carelessness, we see what has happened to the Sidekick and Danger (the company they acquired.

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