With the announcement of Vodafone 360 attracting all-round comment, the company does appear to have beaten its rivals who are said to be planning to launch similar Internet services offerings.
What Vodafone 360 has achieved, according to IDC analyst Jonathan Arber, is not another social networking platform, but an enhancement to customers' existing social networks. "360 allows users to bring together contacts and content from their existing social networks, and to share content to these networks. We expect to see more of this from other operators in the coming months," said Arber, declining to name which operators had competing services in development.
This move allows Vodafone to use its network assets to pull in new customers from a rapidly growing demographic of twenty-something consumers using their mobiles to access social networking sites. "It's not new but it is a refinement which pushes up to the next level and which will incorporate other social networks, allowing it to lock in new and existing customers," concluded Arber.
This service will be part of Vodafone's new AppStar service which will include new range of Internet services, covering music, games, mapping services, etc. In an attempt to combat the ongoing success of Apple's AppStore, Vodafone has launched a competition offering a total prize fund of €1m to inspire the best developers to produce applications for the new platform.
A key attribute of the new technology is its openness which works across all networks and from a large number of different mobile phones, and also that the technology will provide direct access to all of today's net-wide communication services, rather than to a Vodafone-specific community
Separately, following the revelation that Vodafone's CEO, Vittorio Colao, had been refused permission by the company's board to sell off overseas assets to bid for T-Mobile UK, industry observers are now floating another ‘consolidation strategy' for the company.
This revolves around the UK subsidiary mimicking the deal done in Australia where Vodafone and 3 agreed to merge their networks. Such a deal is understood to be an option in the UK if Hutchison decides to jump ship from its current negotiations with Orange UK and T-Mobile UK regarding network sharing.
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