Microsoft chases Paris Hilton wannabes

Thwarted, at least temporarily, in its attempts to buy up Yahoo and buy itself back into the search engine game and fight back against Google's dominance, Microsoft has fired off another salvo.

It's buying up a company called Danger Inc, maker of a passingly trendy teen gadget called the Sidekick. Popularised by various celebrities, Paris Hilton among them, the Sidekick is a fairly clunky phone with instant messaging, email, web browsing and camera capabilities that can be customised with different fascias and that can play games.

Also known as the Hiptop, the Sidekick has a flip-out screen that moves sideways and upwards and that conceals a small, rubberised keyboard. It's what cool American kids had in response to their parents getting BlackBerrys.

While it presents no real challenge to either the business-centric BlackBerry or more multimedia-focused fashion phones, it may be a good basis for a Google-killing phone.

As I say, it already has a certain following in the US, so it's got a bit of branding going for it - and it's neither a Symbian device (like Nokias and others) nor a Windows Mobile clone.

What it could be is a good alternative to either the Google-developed Android platform or the Limo platform that Linux is plugging.

On the day on which some 30 mobile phone makers are showing off their initial efforts at a Google Android handset, at Mobile World Congress, news of the Danger Inc acquisition by Microsoft can only be deliberate timing.

Still, as Microsoft always seek to reassure us, a bit of [open-source] competition can only be a good thing.

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Rosemary Haworth

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