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Vodafone Inks Deal With Mobile PC Makers

Europe's largest mobile phone company, Vodafone Monday scored a coup that aims to put its services in the majority of computer hardware makers' mobile devices.

The U.K.-based company, which boasts upwards of 107 million subscribers, said it has signed global agreements with the leading computer equipment suppliers Dell Computer , Fujitsu-Siemens, Hewlett Packard , IBM , Psion Teklogix and Toshiba to target mobile business customers.

The idea is to offer pre-installed 'Connected by Vodafone' services to mobile computing devices such as notebooks, PDAs and Tablet PCs with a connection to Vodafone's GPRS data network. The company said the availability of its service would be phased in on a case-by-case basis for the 28 individual markets that Vodafone serves. The services are expected to debut in the U.K., Germany, Span and Italy first with Ireland launching in the spring.

The deal gives more headaches for Vodafone rivals France Telecom , which owns a majority of Orange U.K. and Deutsche Telekom's T-Mobile service.

"By partnering with IT vendors to integrate, configure and test mobile access at the point of manufacture, business customers can now choose to purchase their preferred integrated mobile hardware device in the knowledge that it will be fully supported by their supplier of choice," said Vodafone Global Products and Services chief executive Thomas Geitner.

The 'Connected by Vodafone' launch is part of its Mobile Office program, which it launched earlier this month. The program also includes Vodafone Live, the company's suite of consumer data applications, including MMS, Java games, location-based services and downloadable ringtones, with links to these services pre-installed and available only on a special Vodafone-branded handset.

In partnership with Vodafone, computer equipment suppliers will offer, market and sell a variety of mobile data connectivity solutions, including Vodafone Remote Access, although the services by each IT hardware vendor will vary and may not include Vodafone Remote Access at launch.

Vodafone said the mobile devices will be tested, configured and supported by their supplier.