T-Mobile takes the hit for sidekick data loss

As the company that markets and distributes the Sidekick, T-Mobile is taking most of the heat, although it is not to blame.

The relationship between T-Mobile and Danger's Sidekick service is no longer a doe-eyed love affair thanks to the epic failure of the Danger servers and loss of data for thousands of customers. As the company that markets and distributes the Sidekick mobile device, T-Mobile is taking most of the heat from the debacle, although it is not to blame.

T-Mobile has stopped selling the Sidekick pending some resolution of the current catastrophe. The T-Mobile web site lists the Sidekick as 'Temporarily Out of Stock'. Meanwhile, T-Mobile is offering to compensate Sidekick users affected by the loss.

First T-Mobile offered a free month of data service (doesn't seem very compelling for users who just lost data as a result of the data service), and has now sweetened the deal by providing users a $100 gift card that can be applied to T-Mobile products and services or used to pay a T-Mobile bill.

Prior to the advent of the Apple iPhone, the Sidekick was arguably the de facto mobile entertainment and communications system. The Sidekick was a trailblazing device which was one of the first to incorporate games, social networking, Web access, email, instant messaging, and Internet connectivity in one.

The success of the Sidekick drew the attention of Microsoft, which purchased Danger, the developer of the Sidekick software and provider of the hosted architecture used to sync Sidekick mobile device data to the Internet, in early 2008. There was speculation about how Microsoft might incorporate the Sidekick innovations into Windows Mobile, but Danger has operated more or less as a separate entity within Microsoft.

T-Mobile may be the face of the Sidekick, but T-Mobile does not manage the backend infrastructure behind the Sidekick services. It is not T-Mobile's fault that the servers crashed, or that the data on the servers was not consistently and reliably backed up. The extent of T-Mobile's culpability ends with perhaps not doing more to ensure the service provider had sufficient policies and procedures in place to prevent this type of catastrophe.

Announcement of the $100 gift card compensation was made jointly by T-Mobile and Microsoft which implies the two are working together to finance the compensation. The joint announcement is a mea culpa by T-Mobile though and makes T-Mobile a scapegoat for a SNAFU it had no control over.

The Sidekick has plummeted from crown jewel of the T-Mobile product portfolio to scarlet letter virtually overnight. The $100 gift card is better than nothing, but it is little more than a gesture of good will for users who lost irreplaceable photos and messages, as well as contact and calendar data which could take significant time to collect and rebuild.

Microsoft and Danger should be front and center in taking responsibility for the Sidekick disaster, but T-Mobile seems to be the one in all of the Sidekick debacle headlines, and the one leading the charge to make amends with Sidekick users.

There is an emerging silver lining for some Sidekick users. Microsoft and Danger have been able to recover data for some Sidekick users, so perhaps all is not lost.

Tony Bradley is an information security and unified communications expert with more than a decade of enterprise IT experience. He tweets as @PCSecurityNews and provides tips, advice and reviews on information security and unified communications technologies on his site at tonybradley.com.

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Tony Bradley

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