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Last Updated: Thursday, 30 June, 2005, 11:22 GMT 12:22 UK
Mobile giants court the internet
T-Mobile phone
Only high-end T-Mobiles handsets will have unrestricted net access
Mobiles phones and the internet are coming closer together, with T-Mobile turning to Google and Vodafone doing an instant messaging deal with Microsoft.

T-Mobile is to offer subscribers full internet access via Google, instead of restricting access to a set of sites.

Rival Vodafone has joined forces with Microsoft to allow people to exchange instant messages between its messaging service and MSN Messenger.

Analysts say the deals show the net is becoming an integral part of mobiles.

High-end browsing

In the past, T-Mobile restricted customers to its T-zones walled garden, which promoted ringtones and graphics for sale.

Unless the user interface is easy to use, people will take quite a long time to see the mobile phone as a good way to participate in instant messaging
John Delaney, Ovum
These mobile internet offerings have had limited success. A T-Mobile spokesman described its service as too expensive, too complicated and of too little use. Now subscribers in Europe will be directed to the Google homepage, from where they will be able to go anywhere on the net.

However the changes will only affect customers with the newer, high-end phones. People with older T-Mobile handsets will still use T-zones because they are not able to display webpages.

"It is a sign that walled garden doesn't work in some circumstances, " said John Delaney, principal analyst at telecoms research firm Ovum.

"But the T-Mobile adoption of Google is limited to high-end phones so it is not throwing in the towel as far as T-zones is concerned."

"For a lot of people the walled garden is perfectly viable as long as it has everything you want."

T-Mobile plans to launch its new service this July in Germany and Austria, and later this year in Britain, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic.

Mobiles to computers

Vodafone, the world's largest mobile phone firm by revenue, also offers customers its own walled garden, which is free to use. But subscribers have to pay to access the wider internet.

Display of Vodafone phones at Cebit
Vodafone wants more people to take up instant messaging
It is seeking to tap into the popularity of instant messaging (IM) by hooking up with Microsoft's MSN Messenger service.

The deal aims to bring together the more than 165 million MSN Messenger users with nearly 155 million Vodafone customers around the world.

It is also intended to provide a new source of revenue, with people being charged to IM from a mobile to a PC and vice versa.

"People are willing to pay for messaging in the context of SMS so that is no reason why they would not pay for it in IM," said Mr Delaney.

"Unless the user interface is easy to use, people will take quite a long time to see the mobile phone as a good way to participate in instant messaging."

Vodafone and Microsoft aim to launch the messaging service in several European countries before the end of the year.

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