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Vodafone's 360 man walks

Who's going to run the internet now?

Pieter Knook, Vodafone's Director of Internet Services, has walked, after tweeting his anticipation of his "freedom" last week and leaving the operator with little in the way of internet services.

Pieter Knook was nicked from Microsoft in 2008, and made head of the newly-formed Vodafone Internet Services Division. Those services got bundled up as Vodafone 360, a package that came with branded handsets and promised to reinvent Vodafone as a provider of mobile content and services. Sadly it's done little to honour that promise since.

Vodafone dropped the '360 handsets pretty sharpish, and promoted '360 as a software platform. Unfortunately that promotion included pushing out client software to Android users who weren't expecting it, and were incensed when they discovered it couldn't be removed.

Not only that, but the Android software didn't even work properly: users who decided to buy music using the application that had been foisted on them found that it wasn't even operational, adding to the general feeling of disgust.

Vodafone backed down on the HTC Desire, releasing an update that removed the 360 packages, though that hasn't stopped the operator trying the same trick on the Samsung Galaxy S.

Given the lacklustre performance of Vodafone 360 it shouldn't be surprising that last week Pieter Knook tweeted: "5 days before I leave Vodafone. Freedom beckons."

Vodafone tells us that it was changes to the organisational structure that led to the decision, but makes no bones about whose decision it was. The operator would also like to remind everyone that it remains fully committed to Vodafone 360, and making the service available on as wide a range of handsets as possible.

Not that there's much else that Vodafone can say - Vodafone is betting its future on being a content provider as well as a network operator. Admitting that 360 has failed would be giving up that dream, so it won't happen, even if customers continue to get their services elsewhere. ®

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