Verizon Embraces Google’s Android: In greater evidence that hell is in fact freezing over, Verizon has joined Google’s Open Handset Alliance. See my last post “It’s Getting Chilly In Hades” regarding why Android is interesting and potentially very exciting for the mobile world. Verizon’s new openness is incredibly exciting and certainly means big changes at that carrier and likely the industry.
But let’s think about this for a minute or two. Verizon has built arguably the best network in the country, and has certainly created the most profitable mobile service. Why would it jump into the mobile equivalent of open source? It is actually pretty simple: PROFITS. (And profits, by the way, are not a bad thing. If a company is making money, it means they can provide better service, have more robust infrastructure, and greater reliability.)
Rumor has it that Verizon has had an RFI (request for information) out looking for information about Java for several weeks. Verizon’s handsets typically run on Qualcomm’s BREW operating system. It makes sense that if Verizon is looking to expand the number of handsets on their network with “bring it yourself” hardware, then it makes sense to allow CDMA Java-powered handsets (like those that run on the Sprint network) to work on the VZW network and take advantage things like music downloads, applications and the like offered by Verizon.
What does this mean?
Well, first of all, it means that things could get even more treacherous at Sprint if folks can jump ship and easily take their hardware with them to Verizon. Secondly, it means that there will be a wider audience for mobile content and applications. A big stumbling block for mobile content providers is that most developers have chosen to specialize in either Java or BREW, and most major content providers don’t want to offer content that doesn’t have a huge audience (like all 200+ million mobile subscribers in the US). A content owner will be more likely to move to mobile if Verizon customers (or some portion thereof) are a viable audience. And finally, this means that there will be simply more opportunities for customers to bring the best hardware they can find and use it in the way that they wish.
If customers begin to flock to Verizon because of the minimal hardware requirements, and the introduction of Java as an operating environment, then Verizon will be in the enviable position of acquiring customers at a lower cost than its more closed competitors. I will admit that I have been a Verizon skeptic for years (a billing issue that has dragged on for 25 months now!) and that I haven’t had much good to say about them. But, all of a sudden, I am actually really excited to try Verizon as they open up their network.
This is, indeed, an inflection point. Good luck to all of those that are going to have to play catch up!