The Consumer Matters is the blog of Leslie Grandy, aka Gearhead Gal.  My passion is creating and delivering compelling products that delight customers through simple and elegant user experience design.

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Entries in Sidekick (4)

Saturday
Jun252011

From Ubergizmo: How Far Can You Leverage A Brand?

[Excerpted from a guest post on Ubergizmo the past week.]

With the launch of an Android-based Sidekick and the close of the Danger service, can the brand recover its status as a cultural icon?

The inevitable shuttering of the Danger service earlier this month came and went without a lot of hoopla, providing an inauspicious end for the original T-Mobile Sidekick, the first truly consumer-focused smartphone. The Sidekick name was cleaved from the Danger intellectual property after the acquisition of the company byMicrosoft and the subsequent dissolution of the exclusive distribution agreement that Danger had with T-Mobile.

Earlier this year, T-Mobile, which maintained the rights to only the Sidekick name and the subscriber base, transferred the moniker to an Android-based device produced by Samsung (previous generations were made mostly by Sharp,). Built over eight major releases and six Limited Edition co-branded versions, the Sidekick name lives on as the moniker for a new mobile phone experience, and raises the question – how far can you leverage a brand?

For the rest of the post, click here.

Friday
Jul022010

Favorite Tweets Of The Day

RT@saschasegan: More sad, bad tales of KIN: http://bit.ly/dvjrX9 and http://bit.ly/bOcII3” MSFT took the Sidekick down with it. Strange trip.

Hilarious @CraigyFerg "a magazine is like a paper-y blog." They came before there was AOL.

Friday
Apr162010

Should Microsoft's Kin Be Considered the "Son of Sidekick?"

First published on Technorati April 13, 2010

The launch of Microsoft’s Kin carried with it many assumptions and expectations. KinFirst there was the Microsoft purchase of Danger, the operating system that powers the Sidekick. Since the Sidekick target customer was considered “young and social”, many reviewers and bloggers I spoke with came to today’s launch event expecting to see a “Son of Sidekick.”

The Windows Phone 7 launch, and the deep dive for developers at Mix10, lead some people to believe that Microsoft might not launch its own branded phone first, and many speculated that today's announcements might be about a Microsoft tablet.

Xbox, clearly a component of the Windows Phone 7 plan, has yet to be leveraged into a mobile strategy. And finally, the Microsoft launch of Kin comes a full two years after the last major Windows Mobile OS release, during which time Apple and Google have captured consumers’ hearts and minds with apps and more apps, establishing app stores as the primary battleground for smartphone operating systems.

So, like many folks who attended today’s event in San Francisco, I approached the launch with my pre-conceived ideas of what Kin would mean to the market and to Microsoft.

I had seen the leaked hardware, which is made by the same manufacturer, Sharp, that built the Sidekick. And I had seen early concepts of Pink long before Windows Mobile changed its name to Windows Phone 7. But to burden Kin with all of those expectations is to do the device an injustice. Kin deserves a fair shake at finding its own audience, and the time to develop its rightful place in Verizon’s device portfolio.

Sure, many people buy based on the specs of the phone, like megapixels and memory, that the industry calls “feeds and speeds.” And Kin doesn’t have the most and biggest of very much. But having the most of everything may not be what the audience for this phone really needs, because feeds and speeds add to the bottom line cost of the handset, and for Kin’s 18-24 year old target, budget may be a real constraint.

Saturday
Apr032010

What Has To Happen For Microsoft to Win With Windows Phone 7 

Since the new millennium, Microsoft has developed a reputation of letting other companies innovate in new product markets and then playing catch up by throwing money at the problem  – some times for acquisition, some times for marketing – to gain back its lost share.  Zune and Bing are good recent examples of this phenomenon.  In the smartphone category, the company has struggled to stay relevant with Windows Mobile, and spent a pile of money to purchase Danger, the maker of the operating system which powers the T-Mobile Sidekick.  Earlier this month at MIX10, Microsoft released developer tools for Windows Phone 7, revealing a lot about the current state of the new operating system.   For devices to be ready in stores with enough time for holiday sales to be meaningful, there is still a lot that has to happen to give Microsoft a competitive entry, let alone market share gains, in the smartphone category.

High QoS

Since Microsoft has bet on an end to end that service architecture it controls, it will need to perform much better than the Danger network has. If there is anything the company has learned from operating that service, which is solely backed up in the cloud, it’s that customers don’t like to be cut off from their personal data.  When that service crashed in October, Microsoft saw T-Mobile suspend sales of the device during the important holiday shopping season.  Now, not only are Azure services critical on the cloud side to Windows Phone 7 Series success, but locally, the phone must provide a rich set of application services that are always available to apps.  As recently as this week, Microsoft struggled with Live connectivity when it released Modern Warfare’s “Stimulus Package” to Xbox gamers.

Size Matters

Since the purchase of Danger, the app market has exploded, and the competitive battle is being played out through app tonnage - consumers over-buy on the number of apps they need just like they over-buy megapixels and minutes.  Size matters.  Microsoft needs a compelling number of apps, and preferably a number greater than Palm, RIM, and close to the Android number.  Apps for the Windows Marketplace will need to reflect a balanced mix of both familiar consumer brands and garage developer innovation.  Their strategy to convert existing Xbox and Silverlight developers may come up short in absolute number by launch given the current state of the SDK, and the published APIs that will be available to test against.

A Killer Xbox Mobile Experience

Enabling continuation of play between console and mobile device may be the single biggest feature that could accelerate adoption, and Microsoft must be able to capitalize on existing customer loyalty to the Xbox platform in a way they have not yet done in mobile to own a defensible consumer position.  Games must also be designed cross platform, integrating the users mobility and hardware into the gaming experiences for both “home” and “away” play.  With no gaming console to bolster the iPhone,  Microsoft has a real opportunity to use Xbox as a Trojan horse to break into mobile consumers’ hearts.

Compelling Email

In order to appeal to their target – consumers in their30’s - while not alienating existing Windows Mobile loyalists, Microsoft must deliver a compelling email platform for document management and communication.  The heavy emphasis on collaboration – an easy extension of consumer social networking architecture – may come at the expense of personal productivity, conceding that space to RIM.   In particular, how the applications enable handling attachments – file formats the device doesn’t recognize, saving attachment files, editing and forwarding files – could impact it’s desirability. User generated content comes attached to email in many formats, some of which are not handled well by Mobile Outlook today.

Appealing Hardware

The Asus handset used as a reference device at MIX was pretty ordinary. Touch-screen devices render many of the hardware control buttons irrelevant , leaving just the screen and casing to attract on a store shelf, and making it harder to tell the difference between one touch screen handset and another.  It will be imperative that new Windows Phone 7 devices are built as objects of desire on the outside, not just the inside.  Microsoft leaves handset design to its hardware OEMs, but many of them have already pledged some pretty sleek and innovative designs to the Android operating system they have been driving while Windows slept.

Palm and RIM

In the same time that Microsoft is racing to make an impact on holiday shopping, Palm and RIM are no doubt brewing their own plans to stay relevant with consumers.  But more importantly, RIM may see Microsoft’s commitment to the consumer as an opportunity to strengthen its support Enterprise IT managers who may be reticent about supporting mobile employees on a platform with limited device and policy management tools.  A Palm sale to RIM might change the competitive landscape, but probably not before holiday 2010.  Microsoft needs both Palm and RIM to stay their current course, in order to make a move in the crowded field.

An Ecosystem Of Accessories

A robust selection of third party accessories can help reposition Windows as a consumer lifestyle brand.  Of course, in-car audio and navigation kits should easily leverage Microsoft’s existing Ford relationship with Sync.  While the Xbox extensions – stereo speaker dock, conductive gamer gloves – are no-brainers. Tilting the public’s perception that Windows isn’t your father’s iPhone will be hard, but physical goods like fashion-oriented cases can support the marketing message at point of sale.

A Good Phone

At the end of the day, the device needs to be a good phone.  The less time the OEM has with a stable build, the more likelihood the device may have challenges with battery life, call handling, and reliability. Since Microsoft is writing the device drivers – as Danger did with the Sidekick – they will have a bigger role in commercialization, and potentially more opportunity to impact performance of the carrier network interactions with the handset.  Network polling for an always-on device and call continuity in low bar coverage are two examples of things that negatively impacted earlier Windows Mobile and Danger implementations, and which typically don’t get rigorously tested until final test cycles within the last 12 weeks before launch.  With so much left for Microsoft to do to stabilize and commercialize the platform, this is the area of biggest risk. While almost all of the blame for the history of iPhone dropped calls falls squarely at AT&T’s feet, consumers who couldn’t stand the experience also switch from their iPhones when they leave the carrier because of unreliable call handling.

While some of the above may seem obvious, when you look at what the list represents as a whole, you realize it is not a small hill that Microsoft has to climb with Windows Phone 7 to make it a must-buy for consumers. Considering their Director of developer evangelism told the audience at MIX10 that the company has been only working on this plan for the last year, the Windows Phone 7 team surely has its work cut out for them.