Vodafone has announced Vodafone 360, a comprehensive relaunch of its consumer services. This is an ambitious move to regain some mindshare from smartphone players such as Apple and Google.
The full Vodafone 360 experience -- which includes a 3D user interface, connected address book, maps and places, photos, music and app store -- will be showcased on the Vodafone 360 H1 and M1. Vodafone's ability to engage developers as well as consumers will be crucial to the success of 360.
Vodafone aims to push the Vodafone 360 experience into the mass market, with some elements of the proposition reaching out to handsets not on the Vodafone network. The company's challenge is to provide both a recognizable developer experience and user experience on these handsets that adds value beyond the native capabilities of these phones. Developers and consumers will quickly become disillusioned if the promise cannot be fulfilled on the wide range of supported handsets.
Beyond the H1 and M1 handsets, Vodafone 360 will be preloaded on four Nokia Symbian smartphones and available for download on 10 others. The Vodafone People application will be available on more than 500 handsets supporting the Open Mobile Alliance Device Management standard.
Web widgets to link 360 handset markets
With multiple handset platforms already competing for developer attention, Vodafone's decision to push another -- based on the Joint Innovation Lab (JIL) mobile widget framework -- could leave it with a deficit of developers unless it is prepared to invest widely and consistently in the deployment of JIL through its handset portfolio. It must also ensure that the JIL framework provides a rich set of APIs compared to the native capabilities of the H1/M1 and other handsets, in order to avoid developers opting for an alternative route to market for their applications.
Vodafone is encouraging developers to build applications using JIL as the application environment through the Vodafone App Star developer competition (offering prizes of up to about $147,000). This is consistent with the H1 and M1 being the first JIL-enabled handsets.
However, currently none of the other Vodafone 360-supporting handsets from Nokia and Sony Ericsson are JIL-enabled. In addition, the current version of the LiMo platform does not support JIL and instead supports an alternative widget framework called BONDI (an OMTP initiative).