Nokia will offer another four handsets with the application, and another 100 will be able to use the service at launch. Vodafone aims to make the download suitable for all operators and as many handsets and operating systems as possible.is now releasing two of its own handsets designed by Samsung with the new Vodafone 360 application pre-installed.
The announcement from Vodafone (NYSE:VOD) brings to mind a number of similar services, such as Ovi from Nokia, MobileMe from Apple and indepedent providers such as Nimbuzz and Fring, not to mention the Rich Communications Suite currently in development by the GSMA. Vodafone 360 aims to distinguish itself in this field with its reach (315 million Vodafone susbcribers in 30 countries plus partner networks in 40 countries), the fact that 360 is also available to non-Vodafone mobile users, the range of the service (access to all possible communication and social networking applications, so no ‘walled garden’), and its open character (open to numerous handsets and operating systems), and, we can ussume, its user interface. This last issue is essential if the service is to be successful. Demonstrations are not yet available, but according to sources, Vodafone had 1,000 developers working on the service for months. Vodafone 360 has to offer access to all the contacts and content around the subscriber, hence the name ‘360’.
Vodafone has deployed its significant development power, based on the enormous scale of the company, to explicitly create a distinctive asset. Under the leadership of former Microsoft man Pieter Knook, Vodafone is looking to compete head on with other international giants, such as Nokia, Google, Apple and Microsoft. In this field, Vodafone is the only operator active, which raises the qeustion if Vodafone 360 can be a success. Ovi has so far disappointed, in a world where the user demands maximum freedom to choose. However, Vodafone has a clear advantage over competitors: the mobile operator has a billing relationship with its customers.
While it’s questionable whether the service will take off outside its own customer base, it should only bring benefits to Vodafone’s own subscribers. Vodafone will profit indirectly from this: satisfied customers, higher usage and lower churn. And there is also something to be earned directly, namely from that bit of sales from revenue-sharing deals or through placing advertisements among the content.