I loved reading this. I never used a hiptop/sidekick because I didn’t like the form factor and they seemed to be aimed at teenagers (or so I thought back then), but it brought back a lot of memories of using my various Palm phones like the Treo 600 and Samsung i500 a decade ago when nobody else had phones that connected to the Internet. I had SSH, e-mail, and a web browser on my phone and loved doing all kinds of nerdy things with it like running coldsync on my server to do hotsyncing over the (very slow) Internet. I wrote custom conduits to push e-mail to my phone while uploading my just-taken crappy 640x480 photos to automatically display on my website. Working at an ISP, the ability to SSH into stuff or hop on IRC from wherever I was was very useful. I could even tether my Thinkpad X40 to it over a serial cable and get Internet access.
I made custom WAP apps to interface with sites like Slashdot and Freshmeat. I remember e-mailing Rob Malda to let him know I made a WAP version of Slashdot and he replied saying I needed to add a link back to Slashdot’s actual website. I replied explaining that a link wouldn’t make any sense because if the device was reading a WAP site, it was because it didn’t have the ability to read normal websites, so the link wouldn’t even be viewable. He replied back saying more or less “I know, but our lawyers will probably require it.”
I even had an Audi/VW-specific OBD-II app on my phone that I could use to monitor and tweak ECU parameters on my Audi A4 - this was back in 2003. Now all of this stuff is normal and nobody appreciates it anymore. And where’s the good Android phones with physical keyboards? I almost jumped ship to the Blackberry Q10 but their OS is going nowhere.
Danger was a super cool company and the SideKick was a killer device. Depending on how you look at it, it’s either an amazing story about how talented people can accomplish impossible things if they just try, or it’s a sad story about how superior, brilliant products aren’t necessarily market maker successes.
One things for sure, they are worth studying because Microsoft certainly didn’t before they re-org-ed them to death, drove out many talented folks, shipped the disastrous Pink/Kin, and ultimately cannibalized the remaining talent to help save the Win Phone 7 efforts…
That’s pretty cool - I never knew the Sidekicks were that sophisticated. I remember when I was looking for my first smartphone in 2005 or so, the Sidekick didn’t seem to be even on the radar. The only options seemed to be Nokia’s S60, Windows Phone, and Blackberry. Maybe they never got marketed to the tech crowd much somehow?
As far as the mobile market goes, I always thought that it was pretty analogous to the 90s desktop PC market. Apple is still Apple, Android is Windows, Windows Phone is, uhh, OS/2, I guess? Maybe Sidekick is Amiga - before it’s time but never much market success?