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Bebo Turns Orange

Ray Le Maistre

10:50 AM -- The Zeitgeist strikes again. Orange (NYSE: FTE) operation Orange SA (London/Paris: OGE) has found itself a cyberspace partner in the form of social networking site Bebo Inc.

The relationship, says Orange, is going to allow the mobile operator's U.K. customers to "express themselves from their Orange phone without needing to download or install any special software" by using a new service called Bebo Mobile. (See Orange, Bebo Team Up.)

But I checked this out with a few young people I know (but who prefer not to admit they're related to me), and they say what it really means is that you'll be able to check out who's "hot" when you haven't got access to your PC.

That, as any sane mobile marketing executive with their fingers on the "yoof" pulse will tell you, could generate loyalty and revenue from the teenage demographic. (Nearly 70 percent of Bebo's U.K. users are 24 or younger.)

So Orange is going to offer what it calls "tailored packages" to Bebo's British users, of which there are an amazing 8.5 million in the U.K. (Bebo has more than 30 million users worldwide).

It's a move Orange needed to make to keep up with key rival Vodafone Group plc (NYSE: VOD), which has already announced partnerships with MySpace and YouTube Inc. (See Vodafone Takes MySpace Mobile and Vodafone Offers Mobile YouTube.)

But did Orange really have to assign the following quote to its CEO, Sanjiv Ahuja? "Orange is turning social networking into an `anytime, anywhere' experience."

With the classic Martini advert in mind, it's a wonder he didn't add: "It's a wonderful world you can share!"

Bartender, another litre of vermouth over here, please...

— Ray Le Maistre, International Drinks Editor, Light Reading

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