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Business Users Will Want A Part Of Vodafone 360

Peter Judge has been involved with tech B2B publishing in the UK for many years, working at Ziff-Davis, ZDNet, IDG and Reed. His main interests are networking security, mobility and cloud

Consumers always get first bite of any technology now  – and business users will feel left out when Vodafone 360 launches, says Peter Judge

I spent an enjoyable hour on Vodafone’s briefing bus in London, yesterday, seeing the Vodafone 360 service which launches tomorrow. My conclusion: this is something consumers will want – and businesses will envy.

Vodafone 360 is a user interface that puts social networking on the front screen of the phone, and arranges the users’ contacts so you can reach any person with a phone call, IM, text or other call – or send a location message to meet up.

It’s available through the web as well as the phone, with a user interface that combines Facebook Google Mail and the rest of it (not Twitter till Christmas) through what looks like a decent user interface. All contacts and photos are backed up to the web from the phone.

The service – which we learnt about last month – is being launched on two Linux (Limo) based phones, the most exciting being the Samsung H1 (pictured) which has a 3.5in touch-screen OLED display (OLED is brighter and better for battery life), a 5Mpixel camera, Wi-Fi and 16GB of storage.

vodafone3600.jpg

I was told that another 20 handsets are planned, including existing ones, and non-touch devices such as the Nokia E71. It’s also – given the inclusion of Symbian – not tied to Limo either.

No iPhone option of course, as Apple owns that interface – and similarly with Blackberry.

Vodafone is putting a lot behind this, and betting a lot on it being very easy to get into and very compelling. It will sit in the company’s line-up alongside both the iPhone and a number of Google-friendly Android phones, which offer several of the same features.

But Vodafone 360, by bringing together lots of different social media aims to be more attractive to the user than either of these options, giving Vodafone more of a chance to be more than just a dumb pipe for other companies’ branded experiences,.

It looks to be doing it very well too.

Where’s the business version?

But there is one glaring omission, in Vodafone 360. In amongst all the different email options, there is no support for Microsoft Exchange. My Vodafone demo guide looked quite embarassed – and maybe a bit wistful – about this.

There’s no real reason why Exchange should be there. This is a consumer device. Consumer tech is now so much bigger than enterprise tech, that an enterprise version of Vodafone 360 would be a very silly first move fthe operator.

But consumer tech is now so big that everyone in business is going to be using this kind of thing. My demo guide and I both clearly want to use this kind of thing for business. We use Gmail, Facebook and Twitter for business, and we want a straightforward backup for all the data on our phone.

The only drawback is that there isn’t – to my knowledge – a business device or a business service that convincingly brings it all together for business people.

Such a service wouldn’t have to be so “fun”. It wouldn’t have to support everything in Facebook. It oculd have LinkedIn and look all corporate. Maybe we’d call it Vodafone 180.

Whatever it looks like mobile business social networking has to exist. Simply because the current generation of young people need it, like they need oxygen.