On Wednesday 29th June 2005, Sendo went into administration. It was a very sad day for the mobile industry in Britain, especially for those of us who are fans of the Sendo X and X2 smartphones. This article aims to draw togeteher all the facts leading up to this sad event and give an informed opinion on what's next for Sendo, their employees, and (probably the question on most people's minds) the future of the X2 smartphone.
Wednesday morning started just the same as any other for those of us following events - the "new" firmware for the Sendo X was finalised and due to be released any day, it was just a case of those of us outside of Sendo wondering which day that day would be.
As the day progressed, the level of activity surrounding the firmware increased (for those of us in the know) - was it possible that today would be the day when the firmware was finally put on the Sendo website? Could this be the day when we'd be able to silence most f the critisisms leveled against the Sendo X smartphone?
Eventually the new firmwares started appearing on the sendo website and announcements made here and on All About Symbian. Everything looked rosey again for the Sendo S, after a much extended delay.
Then, a mere matter of minutes later, the news started leaking out that Sendo had gone into administration. Suddenly everyone at Sendo who had been "on-line" disappeared, and anyone calling the Sendo office was told that all employees were all "in a meeting". Getting any sort of confirmation or statement from Sendo about these rumours was impossible. As the afternoon continued into the evening, more details started emerging - yes, the rumours were true (Sendo eventually posted confirmation on their website); Motorola had bought the R&D and Intelectual Property of Sendo, but had not bought the business as a whole, nor the inventory of any existing and future Sendo phone models.
As the dust started to settle over the initial shock, with more and more news sites picking up on the story, it started to become clear what had actually happened. What follows is my interpretation of these events...
- Sendo realised they were in big trouble roughly a week before anything happened. They approached a number of companies about a possible merger / buyout. This got reported on in the Sunday Telegraph, with a possible Motorola link being touted.
- Motorola agreed to buy R&D and IP, but obviously with conditions.
- Having failed to find any other buyers for the rest of the business, Sendo decide they have no option other than to go into administration.
- The staff, knowing this was a likely outcome, do their utmost to get the outstanding firmware for the X (and other associated software) finalised and released.
- The staff officially get told that "Yep, we're in adminstration. This is what's going to happen..."
- The press start picking up on rumours and counter rumours about these happenings.
As the fallout continues, one of the questions on everyone's minds is what's going to happen to the Sendo X2. Motorola have bought the rights to the Sendo handset range, but haven't bought any of the existing phone inventory. Neither do Motorola own a Series 60 license, meaning that although they have the rights to the X2 they can't pick up on the X2 and sell it as their own. (some of the Series 60 IP belongs to Nokia, and without a license, Motorola are not allowed to use it)
However, at least two European networks had agreed to take the X2 upon launch. One of these is known to be Vodafone UK (who also sold the X). There's a small possibility that one of these networks could pick up the rights to the X2 and release the phone under their own brand. This obviously would be quite a complicated procedure, as they'd need a Series 60 license, as well as now needing to pay royalties to Motorola for any of the Sendo IP in the phone. (most prominently the Now! screen and the music player).Alternatively, whatever remains of Sendo could license the phone back from Motorola and release it themselves (presuming Sendo's Series 60 license is still valid), however, no-one yet knows if the administrators plan on trying to sell off any existing phone assets in this way.
In all probability, the Sendo X2 will not now see the light of day. A great pity for all of us!
One magazine in particular must be especially upset - Total Mobile published their August edition just over a week after Sendo went into administration, and unfortunately, their cover story is an "exclusive" review of the X2 - such a pity they didn't know when they put the magazine to print that they would be recommending a phone which no-one will be likely to be able to buy!
What this also means to the rest of us is that any warranties and future support for the Sendo X phone are now effectively void. It's very unlikely that any new X firmwares will be released (certainly they won't be officially; whether any of the Sendo guys can give us an unofficial release up to the very latest development firmware is still unknown), and getting any faulty Xs repaired is also now hightly unlikely, as these phones also contain Nokia IP, so no stocks can be held at Sendo's facilities. (which Motorola are also taking over)
Looking forward, it's known that the R&D department of Sendo (aprox. 200 people) is moving to Motorola. What is not known is exactly what Motorola plan on doing with these people, or with the IP they've obtained. The most likely scenario is that Motorola's main aim was to get their hands on Sendo's software system which allowed them to so easily customise their phones for specific network opperator's requirements. (this is an area in which Motorola have traditionally been very weak). However, Sendo had a lot of inovative Series 60 technology - as Motorola use UIQ in some of their phones (Series 60 and UIQ both run on top of Symbian OS) it is possible that the Sendo guys may get asked to port some of the Now! screen and other Sendo technologies to the UIQ platform.
The rest of the Sendo business is likely to be broken up by the administrators - there's unlikely to be any demand from any other manufacturers for Sendo's low end models, nor for any of their other infastructure. The main UK retailer for Sendo's low end handsets is Vodafone, and they've never exactly marketed their Sendo offerings. Most european networks were more interested in the Sendo X, which they now will have no access to.
One thing which has come out of this (and can be thought of as "good") is that for those of us who own and who are happy with the Sendo X, we've now got a phone which is even more exclusive. Demand for the phones has already started to rise, with prices on eBay now being �10 to �20 higher than they were a few months ago.
All in all, a day we'd all rather hadn't happened. R.I.P. Sendo International Ltd.