Vodafone: The greatest thing about standards is there are so many of them!

Some big news came out of the Vodafone camp today. The wireless carrier has apparently selected Microsoft's Windows Mobile operating system for strategic deployment on its handsets.

Some big news came out of the Vodafone camp today. The wireless carrier has apparently selected Microsoft's Windows Mobile operating system for strategic deployment on its handsets. Or so I thought at first. According to the first line of email in my inbox:

Today Vodafone announced a strategic collaboration with Microsoft to standardize the use of the Windows Mobile platform in Vodafone’s Smartphone portfolio.

Reuters apparently took the bait (hook, line and sinker). According to a Reuters headline (reprinted here on ZDNet... blech!):

Microsoft: Vodafone first to standardize software - Microsoft said on Monday that Vodafone was the first mobile carrier to standardize the software on its handsets, but that the software giant was working with other operators on similar deals...."Vodafone is the first to go into this direction, but there are others doing similar things and we will be talking about them in due course," Pieter Knook, senior vice president for the Mobile and Embedded Devices Division at Microsoft, said in a telephone interview.

Given my experience with the Motorola Q (also based on Windows Mobile [the smartphone edition]), I was pretty stunned when I read this. Somewhere, in one of my many posts about the Q, I mentioned that had I been the product manager for it, I wouldn't have let it out of the lab in the shape that it's in. Alas though, as it turns out, either the PR people need to learn what the term "standardize" means, or Vodafone is just one of those companies that thinks that the greatest thing about standards is how many of them there are.

According to Vodafone's press release on the matter:

Microsoft forms a key part of Vodafone's three-platform strategy to reduce operational costs while improving services to customers.

Three-platform strategy? 

As it turns out, Vodafone did not exactly standardize on Windows Mobile (at least not by my definition of "standardize"). Back to the Reuters piece:

Microsoft Windows Mobile was one of just three core software platforms selected by Vodafone for future consumer handsets, in an attempt to cut costs in offering services to subscribers. The other two are Linux and Symbian Series 60.

Uh huh. So, there are three standards and, of course, if something else that comes along that simply blows everything else out of the water, something that a lot of customers will want, something like an iPhone from Apple, Vodafone will no doubt say "Not on our network... let someone else have all that wonderful business that drives ARPU through the roof." OK. Perhaps its "3 standards and we'll keep our options open in case something interesting comes our way)."

The press release goes on (and gave me a pretty good laugh):

Under the terms of the agreement, Vodafone and Microsoft will work in close co-operation aiming to ensure that Vodafone applications and services are tightly integrated with a Windows Mobile experience, resulting in improved mobile phone functionality as well as an enhanced mobile experience for customers.

Whew. It's really about time. After all. I'm really tired of all the other announcements promising to deliver unimproved functionality with nothing integrated, an unenhanced mobile experience, and such a decoupling between the operating system, hardware, and mobile service provider that nothing makes sense when you start it up.


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