Rory Cellan-Jones

Who wants to live in Vodafone's world?

  • Rory Cellan-Jones
  • 24 Sep 09, 12:24 GMT

Whose world do you live in? Where do you keep your increasingly unmanageable pile of data - contacts, e-mails, photos, browser bookmarks? For years, the likes of Microsoft and Apple tried to persuade us to live exclusively with them, while various web businesses - from Yahoo to AOL to Google - invited us round to their places and suggested that the more time we spent with them, the happier we would be.

Now the mobile industry, whose customers have been pretty promiscuous up to now, is doing its best to persuade us to settle down in their world. Nokia has already started offering everything from music to an app store. Today Vodafone launched something called 360 at a big glitzy event in a converted tramshed in East London.

Confused by all the free smoothies and muffins, the glossy video and marketing material, battered with "compelling" and "exciting" buzzwords, it took me some time to work out what 360 was all about. "Today is the first step in making the internet more personal," left me no clearer.

Ah, I get it. It's about synchronising your contacts, your calendar, your e-mails, on your phone and on your desktop, PC or Mac.

Screengrab of Vodafone's 360It also involves a range of new devices from the likes of Samsung featuring the 360 service. At the heart of it is a so-called "dynamic" address book, which shows all of your contacts' various numbers and social networking details, and brings floating to the front those you've engaged with most recently.

But just a minute, surely I can do that already through say Apple's MobileMe, or Google Sync, or Windows Live Sync? And new phones based on the Android operating system do the same clever tricks with your contacts book.

Ah, but there's more. With Vodafone maps, on which you could enter data such as favourite restaurants, an app store, and a music service - a "very compelling music experience". And you can search the phone and quickly discover anything stored on it, or out on the web.

It all looked pretty smart - but why would you want to do all this in Vodafone's world, when you can already do it elsewhere?

The company's chief executive Vittorio Colao made a good point about the relationship between consumers and their mobile operators: "Customers trust us... they allow us to take small amounts of money out of their pockets every day."

And, while 360 will only be launched in eight European countries before Christmas, he's betting that a large slice of Vodafone's 300 million customers around the world will eventually sign up. What's more there's a big pitch to content providers still looking rather desperately for ways to make money in a web world.

"Everybody who digitises - we can help them monetise," he explained. One example, a Spanish newspaper developing exclusive content for 360 users. So was it about holding on to customers or earning new revenues, asked one journalist at the launch. It seems they go together - if you can hold on to more customers, they will generate more data traffic and that will boost revenues.

It's pretty clear why Vodafone has put so much effort into its 360 offering. As voice revenues dwindle, data is where it's at. But here's a question: have you ever met someone who identifies themself a a Vodafone fan - rather than a Google groupie, a Machead or a Windows true believer? I'm not entirely convinced that there's a huge crowd desperate to live in a Vodafone world - but there's a lot of money riding on the success of venture, so maybe it will work.


  • Comment number 1.

    That sounds remarkably like an old-fashioned portal a la Yahoo, Altavista etc. and we all know how well that idea worked out last time.

    I know what I want from Vodafone, and it's not this - it's a plain, simple, uncomplicated, unmolested, connection.

  • Comment number 2.

    I am not sure if it is fair to say that Voice revenue is dwindling. It is still the mainstay of the mobile business representing some 90% of the revenues and some 99%of the profits

  • Comment number 3.

    Call me old fashioned but my 3 year old PAYG mobile does all I want it to - calls and SMS messages. I don't need to be online 24/7 and wouldn't want to be. I get to spend quality time with people, my children and my wife instead of staring at a 3" screen, blasting out frankly horrible tinny "music".

    I also don't really care about WHO my provider is - just as long as it gets the job done. Brand loyalty to me seems a little insane, and those who truly believe that real people like myself care beyond if something does it's job or not are seriously disillusioned about the real world.

    So no, I won't be rushing out or camping over to get my hands on this, the latest whizz bang gadget.

    "very compelling music experience" - what is that exactly? Surely if the dross that's in the (fixed) charts nowa-days is hardly music nor is it an experience .. ok, so it is an experience, a bad one.

    And they wonder why music sales are falling.
    Sorry for going a little OT there by the way!

  • Comment number 4.

    Oh, I forgot to comment on "Where do you keep your increasingly unmanageable pile of data - contacts, e-mails, photos, browser bookmarks?"

    Unmanageable? I'm very organised and don't have this problem.
    Next pointless gadget please ...

  • Comment number 5.

    The problem with all these system is it's fine until you leave, then they've got all your data.

  • Comment number 6.

    You dont have to join the Vodafone world to enjoy 360. 360 is available to non vodafone customers as well. Probably you missed that detail !

  • Comment number 7.

    I was looking at my old filofax the other day and though I should buy a new one.

    NOTHING could entice me to make it electronic. I watch highly skilled friends of mine spending hours inputing data into whatever gizmo - often inaccurately, with various degrees of cursing and almost always slowly.

    I have no wish to be connected to another device, I like flipping through my address system in a casual way that is not possible on a Palm, or blackberry or even a strawberry!

    I also use journalist pads for notes - it is SOOOOO simple!

  • Comment number 8.

    These products are fine, until someone breaks the security and hacks into your account, then suddently they have access to a lot of your information.

    Give me a basic phone over a smart phone any-day.

  • Comment number 9.

    Am I the only one who keeps people phone numbers in my phone, emails on my computer and addresses in a addressbook?

    My digital photo's are on my computer and if I want to share them I use email or print them out.

    And why would I want to access my home bookmarks from work?
    If they knew half the stuff I looked at I would either be fired or have to quit through embarrisment.

  • Comment number 10.

    we don't need someone to organise us in return for some money. What we really need is to be left alone to make free choices on products.

    Did anyone really wait for the day when their mobile operator would offer what others have done already, is anyone saying "at last, I need this"?

    I'm not. Anyone who is?

  • Comment number 11.

    "have you ever met someone who identifies themself a a Vodafone fan - rather than a Google groupie, a Machead or a Windows true believer?"

    I've never met any of them, and I'd probably run a mile if I did. They sound like complete weirdos.

  • Comment number 12.

    My phone can make calls and send texts and that's all. It costs me less than a tenner a month to run on a pay-as-you-go tariff. And I'm very happy about that. Vodafone can go whistle, I have no intentions of letting them, or any other mobile phone company, take any more than is absolutely necessary from my pocket this or any other month.

  • Comment number 13.

    It's like "March of the Luddites" in here.
    What compels someone to post on a technology blog and tell everyone their Filofax is better? Do you jot the numbers down with a Quill? Much better than those new-fangled, fancy-Dan "Ball-points".

    Having a digital contacts book is a no-brainer. You presumably can't carry your filofax around in your pocket with you wherever you go. Having the contact list in the Cloud is also a no-brainer. It removes the risk of you losing your contacts if you lose your phone, means you can sync various devices, and means if you change your phone, you don't need to perform a painful address book transfer.

    The question appears to be is Vodafone's Cloud offering any better than what's already out there? Rory appears to be distinctly underwhelmed.

  • Comment number 14.

    "Customers trust us... they allow us to take small amounts of money out of their pockets every day." I'm sorry which customer feedback form are they listening to exactly. Or is this the one where they never answer complaints, no one at the customer service line actually does anything they tell you. Charge your phone for a second line even when you did not agree to it, (then tell you that you owe them money if you try and cancel it). By the way even if this happens to you no one in the shop will in fact be able to help you because 'they didnt set it up'. Yes these are people i can definatley trust with details about my life, where do i sign up?

  • Comment number 15.

    I'm always amazed at the revenue expectations for these things. Most people will only use something when it's really simple and they know what it is. There's only a small minority of techies who want extras and who are prepared to wade through info on various devices.

    Some day it will be simple and mass produced I'm sure. One gadget will combine full internet, mobile, fixed line, TV and everything else. But until then, there's probably only room for one or two winners at a time and now its Apple.

    Fair enough for the others to try but its a punt, nothing more.

  • Comment number 16.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.


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