Sprint has won first dibs on MySpace's mobile social-networking efforts. The wireless operator announced a deal with the company to link to MySpace Mobile once it officially launches in early 2008.
"Our partnership empowers Sprint data subscribers with easy access to their MySpace community at no additional charge," Amit Kapur, vice president of business development for MySpace, said in a statement. "We're also in the process of redesigning the mobile site to provide an updated look and feel and enhanced functionality."
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The new version of MySpace Mobile, currently in beta, will offer a revamped e-mail interface and other new features. The beta has seen over one million unique visitors since its release in September.
The MySpace Mobile beta launch complements the social-networking platform's current mobile offerings, which include mobile alerts and premium applications on devices offered in the U.S. by Sprint and other carriers.
From the user's point of view, the Sprint-MySpace deal means Sprint customers won't have to type a URL to access MySpace Mobile on their phones. Sprint customers can just click to access it from the Sprint portal.
But the deal goes beyond MySpace to other Fox Interactive Media mobile Web sites. As part of the deal, Sprint customers can directly link to sites like IGN, FOXSports.com on MSN, RottenTomatoes, AskMen, its network of MyFOX local affiliates, and the newest addition, PhotoBucket.
This isn't MySpace's first foray into wireless. The company struck a deal with Cingular last December to let members add friends, blog, and post photos for $2.99 a month. However, the ad-funded free version of MySpace Mobile is an indication of upcoming trends in wireless, according to Deepa Karthikeyan, an analyst at Current Analysis.
"MySpace aficionados who were unwilling to shell the requisite $2 to $3 monthly fee for monthly access or whose wireless service provider did not support the MySpace application will be thrilled with this launch," Karthikeyan said. Besides Sprint, she continued, Verizon Wireless and Virgin Mobile will be the first to jump on board.
AT&T and T-Mobile users might be stuck out in the cold at the initial launch. Karthikeyan said these carriers might be apprehensive in the early stages due to fears of cannibalizing their own offerings. However, she said, even AT&T and T-Mobile will eventually offer the ad-funded model to increase the options available to their subscriber base.
"Since the ad-funded model does not offer all the features available in the subscription model, hardcore MySpace fans who want to be able to upload pictures and videos from the convenience of their phones and enjoy an ad free interface will prefer the subscription model," Karthikeyan said. "Since Sprint and MySpace do not have an exclusivity agreement, we are bound to see several tie-ups in this space in the upcoming months."