RIM, Danger and the Handheld Brambles

Can Danger's Hiptop take on RIM's BlackBerry in Europe? It's all about bandwidth, says Guy Kewney.

Given a choice between Research In Motion Ltd.s BlackBerry and Danger Inc.s Hiptop, any sensible user would choose the latter.

However, the trend shows that we arent going to be given the choice. Were just admiring the BlackBerry and watching Palm and others make deals with RIM to allow mail-push servers reach devices that arent BlackBerry handhelds. Were also seeing people in Europe, finally, start to accept the BlackBerry as a way of getting mobile e-mail.

But—and this is a big but—RIM is a corporate channel, and the BlackBerry is becoming almost a symbol of corporate serfdom.

The trouble is, there are some—no, a lot—of sad individuals who glory in their serfdom. Ask them who they are, and they wont say "Im Jennys Dad" or "Im a keen skier" or "We explore forests." Instead, they claim to be "Biggus Diccus Inc. Product Management Chief Assistant to the Assistant Chief" as if this were a personality trait. And pulling out the Biggus Diccus BlackBerry in the middle of a Sunday barbecue to deal with an "urgent e-mail" from the Assistant Chief Himself is a badge of honor, a token of status. It says, "You losers arent important when youre away from your desk, but my corporation needs me all the time."

The Sidekick II has now arrived in Europe, and Danger is looking for a carrier. I happen to know it was looked at very carefully by Orange UK, a France Telecom subsidiary and one of Europes biggest carriers. Its not yet definite that Orange wont trial it more widely, but I fear the deal may not go through, even though it was met with enthusiasm by everybody inside Orange who has tried it.

For those loyal cubicle dwellers who would never dream of betraying their relationship with the corporate ball and chain, the Danger device is a bit like having a secret mistress.

It is branded as the Sidekick by T-Mobile in the United States and is sold as a way of giving mobile users all the e-mail they can eat. Flat-rate GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) data means you can take pictures, mail them to anybody in the world, receive replies instantly, check your IM chat list, browse the Web, and generally behave as if life were a holiday.

Sidekick users are reported to have 10 times the data usage of other phone subscribers—a widely quoted statistic, but one I couldnt substantiate. And thats both a good thing and also the problem.

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