What does it mean that KIN, Sidekick and Symbian-Guru went R.I.P. within about 24 hours?

The last 24 hours has brought remarkable upset to the mobile marketplace, just one week after Apple and its partners started selling iPhone 4. Will this tsunami never end?

Late yesterday, the blogosphere, twittersphere and news media cosmos burst with reports that Microsoft had killed KIN just six weeks after the consumer smartphone went on sale. Today, T-Mobile revealed that Sidekick sales stop tomorrow, which isn't exactly shocking considering KIN's demise. In early 2008, Microsoft bought Danger, which makes the software used by Sidekick.

Something else happened today, and it's much more foreshadowing than the other two events. Ricky Cadden posted: "Symbian-Guru.com is Over." One of Nokia's most vocal enthusiasts is switching to Android. He expects to receive a Nexus One tomorrow. Companies like Apple, Google, Microsoft and Nokia live and die by their enthusiasts, who are the best evangelists. Enthusiast blogs can do even more, and nobody -- absolutely nobody shuts down a successful blog with audience and advertising.

Cadden's decision is simply stunning, which can be said of his timing. Nokia will soon launch its hottest flagship smartphone to date -- the N8. But previous bad experiences give Cadden reason not to wait. He writes:

If you recall, when the Nokia N97 was announced, we all drooled over it endlessly. We marveled at its features, its monstrous internal storage, sliding hinge assembly, 1500mAh battery, and more. We waited a disturbing 6 months for it to actually be available -- only to actually get it. The launch firmware on the Nokia N97 was so bad, I sincerely hope that whoever gave it the A-OK to be released has been fired from Nokia. It took them another 6 months just to release a firmware that wasn't rubbish, and now, the 'flagship' languishes behind other devices, frustrating owners like myself more and more each day...After this experience with the Nokia N97, there's simply no way I trust them to not screw up with the N8 -- not enough for me to fork over $500 of my own money, at least. Sure, the N8 looks good on paper and in the first reviews -- but then again, so did the N97, as I recall.

I feel his pain. I looked eagerly for the Nokia N97, too, and bought one in summer 2009. The camera took great photos, and the N97 delivered some other stellar digital media experiences, but the UI lumbered along, hampered in part by the resistive touchscreen. I sold mine within months.

An Enthusiast No More

Cadden launched Symbian Guru in 2006, and he has used Nokia handsets for more than a decade. No more. "I can't continue to support a manufacturer who puts out such craptastic 'flagships' as the N97, and who expects me to use services that even most of Nokia's own employees don't use," he writes.

Like Cadden, I have long been a Nokia fan, too. But I also recently gave up on the manufacturer's phones. The future is either Android or iOS devices -- or both. I have an iPhone 4 and Nexus One. I'll choose one of the two as my everyday smartphone sometime during the next couple weeks. I'm leaning strongly towards the iPhone 4 because it offers what so long appealed to me about Nokia handsets: Photo and video capabilities. Apple offers just about the right combination I need as a journalist.

Cadden also strongly criticizes Symbian -- a scary prospect given the blog's name. "Developers of popular online services are completely ignoring Symbian, putting it further and further behind the other platforms," he writes. "To date, there is still not an official client for Dropbox, Pandora, Last.FM (don't get me wrong, Mobbler is one of the reasons I've stuck with Symbian, but it's still not official), Foursquare, Twitter, and a host of others." I relate. I gave up the Nokia N900 because of missing apps. No Shazam, No N900. He continues:

To be truthful, I'm also exhausted with trying to be a Nokia/Symbian fan in the U.S. There is absolutely zero marketing effort from either company in this market, and it's not for lack of opportunities...While European carriers stumble over themselves to carry the latest Nokia devices, American carriers tend to pick up the lame-duck and low-end versions of Nokia's phones...Most of my friends and family now carry Android-powered devices. My dad traded in his Nokia 6126 for a Motorola Backflip, and my mom, who previously used my N95-3 and 5800 XpressMusic, did as well. My little brother just picked up an HTC Hero, and my wife, who has carried the N81 8GB, N96, and E71, is now eyeing the HTC EVO 4G.

So Cadden really is the last holdout, or nearly so, of a family wooed away to Android. But he is not alone. Dotsisx is going with him. I've been reading her mobile reviews for years. Dotsisx (Rita El Khoury) has been quite the Nokia/Symbian enthusiast. She writes:

I have been a fan and a power user from the moment I bought my Nokia 3250 XpressMusic 4 years ago. Since then, I've owned and trialed more Symbian/Nokia devices than I care to remember, but for posterity's sake here's the list: C5, E52, E55, E61i, E66, E71, E72, E75, E90, N81 8GB, N82, N85, N86 8MP, N93i, N95, N95 8GB, N96, N97, N97 Mini, X6, 5530 XM, 5730 XM, 5800 XM, 6210 Navigator, 6700 Slide, 6710 Navigator, 6720 Classic, and Sony Ericsson Satio. Woosh!

I've evangelized Symbian and smartphones when people didn't know what those weird words meant, I've shown friends around me how to use every single feature in their phone and I've convinced many colleagues in the Pharmacy and Medical field that they don't need a PDA or a Windows Mobile to access relevant medical information, they can do it right from their Nokia with several applications especially MobiReader and its collection of medical eBooks.

Dotsisx recalls "when the iPhone and Android were first launched, I remember how they were a joke for many Symbian users. But look at them now!" She adds: "I'll always be passionate about mobile and tech. It's not as much as I'm quitting Symbian, it's more like I'm quitting being a Symbian advocate, and exclusively a Symbian fan."

Nokia claims that 1 billion people use its handsets. But for how long when enthusiast evangelists abandon its phones? It's not coincidental that KIN, Sidekick and Symbian-Guru all did the big R.I.P. within about 24 hours and a week after iPhone 4 launched or within days of Google revealing daily Android activations of 160,000. I didn't even consider keepers of the old vanguard -- BlackBerry, Nokia N Series or Windows Mobile -- for my next smartphone. What about you?

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