A Sidekick In The Pants – The Final Countdown?

Microsoft said Thursday that it believes it has recovered most of the Sidekick data that it initially feared might have been permanently lost. I am guessing that they located an older offline backup and are working on restoring it and applying any changes made to user data after the backup was made. This means that everyone is happy and the crisis is over, right? Not by a long shot.

You see, there are a number of issues here. First of all, apparently there is no way for a Sidekick user to backup their own data. The system was designed from the ground up to store data not on the device, but in the cloud. When the device is powered off, all local data is lost and it is retrieved from the cloud the next time the device is powered on. This means that you are putting your trust in Danger/Microsoft to do the right thing. They proved once that they cannot be trusted – will their customers ever trust them again? And even if they did retrieve all of their customers’ data, many if not all users experienced a data outage for over two weeks.

A number of lawsuits have been filed, including two filed in federal court in Northern California on Wednesday that allege both negligence and false claims on the part of Microsoft and T-Mobile. Fool me once and all that, you know…

Behind the curtain on all of this is Microsoft’s Corporate Vice President for Premium Mobile Experiences, Roz Ho who is listed as being in charge of the integration of Danger Inc., which was acquired by Microsoft in April, 2008. There are rumors like a rash all over the web that most of the Danger team was moved from the Sidekick onto Microsoft’s Project Pink. This was supposed to be Microsoft’s entry into the phone hardware market. However, much of the Danger/Sidekick team has left or been fired since the 2008 acquisition. According to a Mobile Crunch source, there is “no braintrust that understands how to build a product” left on the Pink team. In fact, it lost some of its greatest minds to competing companies (CEO Andy Rubin took off to lead Android at Google, while Lead UI designer Matias Duarte is a big player behind Palm’s WebOS).

So we may never see anything from Project Pink, and the Danger brand may have been irreparably harmed. Some questions in my mind:

  • Will Microsoft develop software to enable local backup of the information on a Sidekick?
  • Will T-Mobile start hemorrhaging customers angry enough to cancel their contracts and move to another carrier?
  • What do the contracts have to say about the service level agreements between Sidekick users and T-Mobile, and T-Moble and Microsoft?
  • Which company will be paying the lawyers to defend both companies from the many lawsuits springing from this incredible screw-up?
  • Will Palm add local backup functionality to the Pre?
  • How will Microsoft deal with Ms. Ho, since this whole debacle can be laid at her feet?
  • And lastly, when will we learn that offline backups are an essential part of every person’s and every organization’s continuity plan?

I’ll close with Ms Ho’s letter to T-Mobile’s customers:

Dear T-Mobile Sidekick customers,

On behalf of Microsoft, I want to apologize for the recent problems with the Sidekick service and give you an update on the steps we have taken to resolve these problems.

We are pleased to report that we have recovered most customer data for those Sidekick customers whose data was affected by the recent outage. We plan to begin restoring users’ personal data as soon as possible, starting with personal contacts, after we have validated the data and our restoration plan. We will then continue to work around the clock to restore data to all affected users, including calendar, notes, tasks, photographs and high scores, as quickly as possible.

We now believe that data loss affected a minority of Sidekick users. If your Sidekick account was among those affected, please continue to log into the T-Mobile Sidekick forum at http://www.t-mobile.com/sidekick for the latest updates about when data restoration will begin, and any steps you may need to take. We will work with T-Mobile to post the next update on data restoration timing no later than Saturday.

We have determined that the outage was caused by a system failure that created data loss in the core database and the back-up. We rebuilt the system component by component, recovering data along the way. This careful process has taken a significant amount of time, but was necessary to preserve the integrity of the data. We will continue working closely with T-Mobile to restore user data as quickly as possible. We are eager to deliver the level of reliable service that our incredibly loyal customers have become accustomed to, and we are taking immediate steps to help ensure this does not happen again. Specifically, we have made changes to improve the overall stability of the Sidekick Service and initiated a more resilient backup process to ensure that the integrity of our database backups is maintained.

Once again, we apologize for this situation and the inconvenience that it has created. Please know that we are working all-out to resolve this situation and restore the reliability of the service.

Sincerely,

Roz Ho

Corporate Vice President

Premium Mobile Experiences, Microsoft Corporation

Updated 20091016: Some actions that Sidekick users can perform protect their data were posted by Hiptop3.com and T-Mobile. (links will open in a new window)

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