Retailers, publishers to win from shoppers at Vodafone 360

An internet service launched by Vodafone will allow mobile phone users to pay for goods such as news stories and bus tickets and have them debited to their...

An internet service launched by Vodafone will allow mobile phone users to pay for goods such as news stories and bus tickets and have them debited to their phone bills.

The feature will allow retailers and other companeis who deal in low value transactions and publishers looking to charge for their on-line content to expand their market reach and profits at minimal extra cost, Vodafone claims

The micropayment facility is built into the shopping application of Vodafone 360, the new service launched today in eight European countries by the mobile network operator.

Built around a user's address book and use of social network media, 360 allows users to buy low value goods such as news or bus rides via their mobile phone bill. Vodafone and retailers will share the income 30:70 respectively, said Michel Combe, CEO of Vodafone's European region.

Combe said newspapers published in Italy and Spain had already signed contracts to deliver news stories and premium content to users' phones.

This was one example of more than 1,000 applications available from Vodafone's new App Store also launched today.

Pieter Knook, Vodafone's director of Vodafone's internet services, said the firm had tied up with China Mobile, Verizon and Softbank to produce the JIL application development platform, which allows software developers to write programs for Vodafone 360.

JIL is Vodafone's response to the iPhone API, and the Android and Symbian development platforms.

JIL opened the path to a potential market of 1.1 billion customers, which should be attractive to software developers, he said. Vodafone was offering €1m to developers to encourage them to write for JIL, he said.

He said developers who wanted to built B2B applications for JIL were welcome. "It's an open platform," he said.

Vodafone also unveiled two new custom-built Samsung handsets running the LiMo (for Linux Mobile) operating system and optimised to take advantage of the new 360 infrastructure.

The phones use a new user interface to access 360's People address book application. Users could synchronise People with their PC or Mac personal computers via a new website, 360.com that Vodafone launched today too.

People runs native on the two Samsung handsets. It will also be pre-loaded onto four Nokia Symbian phones distributed by Vodafone, and users of more than 100 other handsets will be able to download it, irrespective of their present network operator, said Combe.

People gives users access to friends' Facebook pages, although they can't update their walls, as well as Windows Live Messenger and Google Talk. Support for Twitter, Hyves and studiVZ (sic), the top Spanish and German social networks respectively, is coming soon, the firm said.

The Vodafone App Store also sells music, games, and mapping services.

Vodafone CEO Vittorio Colao said the firm's strategy was to provide users with the most relevant applications with a network that delivered the best user experience.

Pre-paid users would be limited by the balance on their phones, but Vodafone executives had yet to decide on a limit for monthly payers.

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