Vodafone Buys Into Nokia’s Services Strategy

This is A Big Deal: Vodafone will support Nokia’s Ovi services platform. Ovi is the umbrella brand over Nokia’s music store, new N-Gage platform, mapping services and other internet services it’s developing — and a brand that’s widely seen to conflict with operators’ own designs in the space. Vodafone’s support (following a similar announcement from Telefonica a few weeks ago) is a big step for Nokia, both because of the operator’s reach in terms of subscribers, but also because it will help convince other operators to play ball.

But perhaps the bigger angle here is that it shows Nokia is doing what it takes to avoid another huge battle with operators — a la Club Nokia earlier this decade. The Vodafone announcement talks about integrated services, meaning that the Nokia devices that go through Vodafone channels will have built-in links to both Ovi and Vodafone’s competing services. It also says that Vodafone will get a number of exclusive Nokia handsets, a useful tool for it to grab subscribers.

The real key, though: as in the Telefonica deal, billing integration gets mentioned, and a Vodafone exec says that the companies will share some revenues. It’s notable that Nokia’s decided it’s okay to pass some of the revenues on to the operators; but it’s also evident that the operators are providing some value beyond simple access to their subscribers — and that may be one of the first signs of the smart-pipe strategy that outsiders have been banging on about for a long time taking hold. At first glance, this just sounds like A Big Deal for Nokia and Ovi, but it could portend something more disruptive, should operators like Vodafone worry less about owning the entire experience, and more about adding value in ways that justify compensation.

Update: Forgot to mention this as well: it looks like Sony Ericsson is trying something of an Ovi of its own, by expanding its PlayNow content storefront to include music and other services.

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