Vodafone 360 death a long time coming

Caroline Gabriel/Wireless Watch
24 Oct 2011

In many ways, 360 was forward looking when it was introduced in 2009. It offered storage and synchronization across multiple devices in the cloud, long before iCloud or Amazon Cloud Drive came to Android, and it unified key user experiences such as social networks around a single address book and UI. It also included a portal for accessing music and video content, a number of third party widgets, and an application store.

There were several problems though. For one, Vodafone wanted 360 to be more than just a useful service to go a step further than simpler cloud offerings like O2's. It wanted it to be a vehicle to assert its own independence in the software platform, so it ran the initial offering on LiMO, a Linux-based OS which was the latest attempt to create a carrier-controlled mobile environment (it is now merged with MeeGo to form Tizen). As with other such attempts, developers and consumers remained largely indifferent, putting their efforts into the mass market Android and iOS, and so after a while Vodafone scaled back its ambitions and transferred key elements of 360, such as the address book, to the Google OS.

However, the LiMO plan had cost it the interest of many handset makers and developers, and by the time it reworked the offering, other cloud services had appeared. Its main smartphone partner for LiMO and 360 was Samsung, but despite a friendly user interface, the 360-branded handsets were never as heavy hitting as models such as Galaxy S and eventually they were axed altogether, relegating 360 to a service available on a range of smartphones.

Vodafone compounded its problems by trying to use its new-found Android support to push its 360 agenda. It caused a storm of negative publicity for its service when it forcibly downloaded 360-branded apps and UIs when customers upgraded their Android release on certain HTC handsets.

All these missteps meant 360 was pushed to the back of the Vodafone armory, along with its loftier cloud ambitions, and this week it confirmed it would phase out the brand over the next few months. It sent text messages to customers advising them to copy any contact details, emails or photos currently stored in the cloud before December 31.

The writing has been on the wall for this round of Vodafone's over-the-top endeavours for a while – a year ago, its head of internet services, Pieter Knook, poached from Microsoft two years earlier, resigned.

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