Vodafone will support Windows Mobile-based phones, adding to those already running Symbian and Linux, the mobile giant announced today.

Vodafone announced earlier this year that it would whittle down the number of operating systems it supports from more than 15 to two or three. By supporting just a few platforms, the company can cut development costs and offer more services to end users, it said.

Now that there are too many other operating system platforms to choose from beyond Symbian, Windows Mobile, and Linux. The operating system formerly known as Palm OS, bought by Access, is now based on Linux. Vodafone also sells BlackBerry devices, which run software from the device's creator, Research In Motion.

"The advantages of having these centralised platforms is it's a lot easier to roll out applications and services so users get a bigger selection of services," said a Vodafone spokesman.

Most mobile phone makers use their own proprietary software to run handsets, particularly the lower end devices. Those operating systems typically have been adjusted and modified over the years, making it increasingly difficult for operators or handset makers to add new services to them. The operating systems from Symbian and Microsoft were built to accommodate the addition of new applications, and their creators encourage third-party developers to build applications for the platforms.

While Vodafone has started on its strategy of standardising on the three platforms, it won't necessarily exclude all others, the company said. Software from Symbian and Microsoft in particular tends to run on high-end smart phones, so other software might appear on the low-end phones that Vodafone offers.

But Vodafone hopes that some of the high-end operating systems will in the future work down into the mass market phones. "At the moment, Microsoft is centered on the smart phone business end, but I think there will come a time when consumer phones will be part of the Microsoft offering as well," he said.

Vodafone chose Symbian and Microsoft in part because they have large existing communities of developers creating applications on the platforms. The mobile Linux developer community is also growing.