Monday, July 25, 2005

Sidekick -- PMD

For the last several weeks I have been using a recently purchased Sidekick device. I find it ironic that the developer of the device is a company called Danger as I think this is the device that will ultimately get me in an accident due to my use of Instant Messenger while driving.

At our company we speak a lot about PMD's or Personal Media Devices. To us a PMD could be a Sony Ericsson P910, which is an elegant piece of mobile technology that allows a wide variety of media creation or, on the other end of the spectrum my LG-6000 running Rabble which allows me to create posts and add pictures, etc. Nothing too fancy, but when you think about what most phones can do, its definitely a hint of where we are going.

Over the last two months I have seen more and more people using the Sidekick. One of our night nurses had one. The guy running the Ferris wheel at the fair had one. A couple of friends started popping up with them. What I found most fascinating was that none of the people I saw with this device were what I would call early adopters. These people were mainstream tech users who happened to be typing on this little QWERTY keyboard. I figured I must be missing something.

To be brief, I am extremely fascinated by this device in my short time using it. It comes with a lot of functionality in a small user friendly form factor, and I can see how different features would appeal to different users. I am using it for one thing, AIM. My P910 is great for email, phone calls, reviewing docs, etc. Where it really falls down is IM. I have tried repeatedly to use one of the more popular interop mobile clients but have been really disappointed with the experience. The Sidekick has this nailed. They appear to cache sessions on both sides for those periods when you lose connectivity and then resumes the session with the stored text on either side.

The other features on the device include a phone (how quaint), email capability, a web browser, and a variety of PIM type features like contact management and notes as well as a camera. I would definitely use this for email if I wasn't conditioned to use my P910. The other features seem to work well, but they are not the big use case to me. For different users I could see the appeal of certain combinations of the feature set.

From a hardware perspective it is a great device. The screen easily flips, the keyboard is a good size and the overall device size isn't too bulky although it is by no means a small device. The price point of around $250 keeps it just a hair above what I would call a mainstream consumer device, but it isn't far off like many of the smart phones.

As far as a PMD, I think this device has great potential as it relates to blogging and photo blogging. I can take a quick picture of my son at soccer. Email it to my photo blogging place of choice. Pull up a web browser for blog entry, and post for all to see. Or I could use a client based application like Rabble, although Rabble isn't currently available for this device. The QWERTY keyboard lends itself to quick, yet longer form data entry although we have seen amazing amounts of text entry from standard phone keyboards. The nice combination of features from a hardware perspective would be nicely accented by similar software.

What does it need? My wishlist would be the following:

High Speed Connectivity - 3G network option
Deeper access to applications.
Open platform to other IM or Communication type software like other IM clients or Skype.
A better Camera.
WiFi Connectivity

All in all its a great device and I am sure that the next one is going to continue down the path of an awesome feature set path as more users discover what you can do with it.

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