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Thursday, October 08, 2009, 09:00 pm PT (12:00 am ET)

Exclusive: Pink Danger leaks from Microsoft's Windows Phone


Danger and Apple's iPhone

Danger was originally founded in 2000 by three late 80s veterans of Apple: Andy Rubin, who left Apple to join its General Magic/Magic Cap spinoff (which later licensed its pen-based technology to Microsoft in 1998), then started up WebTV (which was acquired by Microsoft in 1997), before co-founding Danger; Joe Britt, who got started working for Apple at 19, then moved to Catapult Entertainment (a video game developer started by Apple employes) and then to WebTV and then Danger; and Matt Hershenson, who worked on the design of Apple's PowerBook 150 and prototypes of the company's iTV set top box (which never made it into production) before working for Catapult and then Phillips before co-founding Danger.

As a company, Danger worked closely with Flextronics and later Japan's Sharp Corporation to develop its Hiptop line of smartphones, which tightly integrated into the company's own operating system, much like the iPhone would later do. Its first model shipped in 2002, making it one of the first smartphones on the market and among the most popular sophisticated phones to be sold in the US, where it was exclusively marketed by T-Mobile as the SideKick (similar to how Apple partnered with AT&T to delver the iPhone). Since 2004, Danger has worked closely with Sharp to develop a series of GSM/UMTS Hiptop/Sidekick phones for sale in the US, Canada, Australia, and Europe.

Danger also pioneered direct software downloads through its innovative Download Catalog, a model later followed by Apple's iPhone App Store. Like Apple currently does, Danger tightly controlled what software could be installed on the device by encrypting apps in the store and preventing the casual installation of any unsigned apps. This was done to set a high bar for software quality and to tie software titles to compatible releases of the operating system by version.

Danger's innovative business model and its popularity among young users (who were drawn to its pioneering ability to support AOL instant Messaging) left some observers to predict that Apple would acquire the company in order to build its rumored iPhone. Instead, Apple developed its own hardware design deeply integrated with a mobile-optimized version of Mac OS X. And while Apple copied Danger's software distribution model, it developed its own unique multitouch interface rather than using a Hiptop-style thumb-based keyboard.

Apple and Microsoft


Danger and Android

In 2003, a few years after founding Danger, Andy Rubin left to start a new project called Android. He was joined by two other co-founders who had worked with him at WebTV, Andy McFadden and Chris White, along with an executive from T-Mobile, Richard Miner. Twenty-two months later, Google acquired the Android project in August 2005, signaling its interest to enter the smartphone business.

Just over a year later when Apple introduced the iPhone, rumors began to fly that Google's Android group would be bringing its own "GPhone" to market as an iPhone-killer. Instead, Google announced in November 2007 that Android would be an open platform that other hardware makers could license for free to build their smartphones.

This strategy pitted Android against Microsoft's Windows Mobile in a defensive play to prevent Microsoft from leveraging its smartphone hardware partnerships to block Google's entry into the mobile search and ads business. Insiders have referred to Android as "Danger 2.0," as the Android project builds upon Danger's general architecture of using a Unix-like kernel (Android uses Linux) with a Java-like application runtime (Android's Dalvik virtual machine).

As the iPhone began rapidly eating up the consumer market in its first six months, and as Google's Android loomed as a direct threat to the licensing model of Windows Mobile, Microsoft bought up the struggling Danger and set out to use the company to target the consumer market, something Windows Mobile had never successfully done. Microsoft's existing clients were primarily Windows IT shops, and even that market was under intense competitive pressure from RIM's BlackBerry.

Mobile platforms history


On page 3 of 3: Microsoft's grave Danger from poisonous leaks.