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Vodafone clings to customers with cloud contactbook

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Updated Vodafone has announced its latest plan to try and hang on to customers, which centres on a cloud-hosted address book.

Vodafone 360 involves a web portal where users can see their address book, connected to the usual social networking services, and a custom client which will be pre-installed on variant handsets as well as central to a couple of new Vodafone-branded phones manufactured by Samsung.

But mostly Vodafone 360 is about trying to keep Vodafone customers within the corral, offering them a personalised portal in the hope that they'll buy applications (more than a thousand available) and music (more than a million tracks available), and, most importantly, remember that they are Vodafone customers rather than Ovi/Nokia/Apple/HTC customers.

That portal will be replicated with an on-device client from Vodafone, which can be installed in Vodafone stores and will come pre-loaded on variant handsets. Those variants will include four Nokia devices and two from Samsung, including the "Vodafone 360 H1" which will feature a multitouch screen as well as Wi-Fi, 16GB of memory and the usual smartphone features.

We don't know what OS the H1 will be running, though Symbian seems a safe bet* as Vodafone will be running the new client on four Nokia handsets too. We've asked Vodafone to confirm the multitouch capabilities of the H1, but apparently they're all in a briefing about the new service and will get back to us real soon.

Vodafone certainly isn't expecting 360 to be limited to Symbian, but rather to become a cross-device platform that can tie users into the Vodafone service by aggregating their online identities regardless of the handset they are using. Most identity aggregation currently takes place on the user's device, as demonstrated by the Palm Pre, but shifting that aggregation to the service provider could make it much harder for customers to change networks, which is rather the point.

Vodafone 360 will be launching in the UK, along with half a dozen European countries, later this year with the rest of the world to follow in 2010. ®

* Update: Seemed a safe bet, but wrong as LiMo Foundation has been in touch to say the H1 will be using their platform with Vodafone committed to LiMo in future - we'll be following up on that when we get more information.

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