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Vodafone's Ovi-killer leaks

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The world's biggest global mobile network appears to be planning to put the skids under Nokia, Google and Apple's plans for mobile software. According to videos leaked to TechCrunch UK last week, Vodafone is planning a comprehensive services offering called "Vodafone People". Apple might not be too worried, but Nokia and Google should be.

VP promises to federate social network messaging, as well as stalwart offerings such as backups, sync, maps and app downloads. It will support both PCs and Macs, which Nokia's perspiring services leviathan, Ovi, hasn't been able to manage.

Judging by the promo videos, VPeople will bring together messaging including SMS, social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, and IM services, into a contact-centric UI. Since many people, particularly the older set, now use Facebook as their messaging service (it's the new Hotmail, really), and Twitter has superseded IM for some niches, this makes sense. Palm and 3 are also trying to federate messaging, so the users doesn't have to fiddle unnecessarily.

Vodafone is the largest global carrier; China Mobile has more subscribers, but only operates in two countries. Voda also has a 45 per cent stake in Verizon, which is driving pell-mell towards LTE. So there's a potential in settings standards. The clincher is really the price.

Google and Nokia will be content to continue shipping their own offerings on their own platforms - but really they want the operators to use their own respective services where they can.

Google has the best mobile Maps client, a popular email and calendar, and a decent photo sharing service. Nokia has a first rate professional Maps business that underperforms on mobile, and not much else.

Recently I advised Nokia to stop trying to be a mini-Yahoo!, and to give up on the social networking bits of Ovi. No one is interested in these services, and which are better done by Flickr, Picasa or Facebook - and a few key areas such as messaging, maps and music need attention much more urgently. For example, Nokia's flagship phone this summer shipped with a seven-year-old email client that can't read HTML. Ovi doesn't make Nokia phones more attractive - and may make them less competitive.

For Google it's possibly even more threatening, because they're not making any hardware revenue. (Nokia still makes handsets people like, even if they're running Flickr and Facebook, not Ovi.) Vodafone subscribers staring at the People app may not be staring at Google ads while they do, and Google won't be making anything from transactional revenue.

You can peek at the promos here. ®

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