When the world's largest mobile phone network launches a platform, everybody notices but the launch of Vodafone 360 has been met not with skepticism but rather with a number of questions.
Vodafone can be credited with a number of great things like the Betavine project and its participation to the Joint Innovation Labs Joint Venture.
But the 360 could be a step too far. Firstly, we're not even sure what it stands for and we're not alone. ZDNet calls it an aggregation service, ElectronicsWeekly labels it as a social media and messaging service while Telecompaper categorises it as a platform.
So how does Vodafone 360 define itself? A single address book for all your contacts. One place to get status updates and stay in touch and a wide range of Apps, Games and Music.
That's sounds a lot like a Social Networking website to us. And with 303 million customers worldwide (plus the potential to reach more than 1.1 billion through JIL), Vodafone has as many customers as Facebook itself.
Then there's the fact that Vodafone is taking on many of its partners in one swoop. Vodafone 360 tries to compete with Google Android (Vodafone is member of the OHA), Windows Mobile (Vodafone sells a number of WM smartphones), Blackberry (Vodafone sells the Storm), Nokia (with its OVI), Samsung (with its Samsung Application Store).
360 has replaced Vodafone Live and there are good reasons why Live did not work as expected. Poor integration, clunky interface, clumsy marketing and the list goes on.
What's more, customers (apart from Apple iPhone owners) want more freedom and no more walled gardens. Users want to separate the platform (the OS) from the hardware (the phone) from the service provider (your ISP) since this is the best proven way to foster competition and innovation.
Vodafone's ambitions are only matched by the huge tasks that lie ahead of it. Ultimately, 360 is all about revenues that can be generated. However, others like Microsoft and Google already offer whatever Vodafone 360 promises and for free without string attached. Google's Data Liberation Front even says that you will be able to take your data with you when you want.
True, you don't have to be a Vodafone customer to sign to Vodafone People (that's the equivalent of giving a 2-week trial to an expensive keep fit programme) but when you find out that Vodafone has started an app star competition with one million Euro worth of prizes, one can only guess that Vodafone will be betting a hell lot on Vodafone 360 to succeed.