Verizon Sneak Attack on Googleplex! Or Not!
What to think of the announcement yesterday that Verizon will open itself up to consumers who want to use non-Verizon-sold phones for their wireless service?
Was it a bold way to thwart new rivals, like Google and Apple, who are promising–but have yet to deliver–a world without the fascist rule of the “Soviet ministries,” as Walt Mossberg has called the cellphone carriers, with new phones, networks and software?
Or perhaps a clever PR feint by the U.S.’s No. 2 carrier to get regulators (and consumers) off its back as an auction looms for new wireless spectrum, in which Google convinced the Federal Communications Commission to set aside some for a new open network?
Or maybe more consumer confusion, since pricing is unclear and Verizon’s CDMA technology is not compatible with more GSM networks?
Or maybe, just maybe, it means the American market–long held hostage by the onerous rules of companies like Verizon–might finally be like the rest of the world and let consumers make their own choices about the phones and perhaps software they want to use?
Well, we have absolutely no idea, since we’ll believe it when we see it and when other carriers follow suit. Right now, most seem to love their consumer-trapping walled garden approach, through which they think they are protecting consumers from the wilds of the more democratic wireless world.
Thanks boys, but we can handle it, I think.
Nonetheless, others weighed in on the move, although with different takes:
Lowell McAdam, president and chief executive officer of Verizon Wireless;: “This is a transformation point in the 20-year history of mass market wireless devices–one which we believe will set the table for the next level of innovation and growth.”
FCC Chairman Kevin Martin: “Wireless customers should be able to use the wireless device of their choice and download whatever software they want onto it.”
Google Chief Executive Eric Schmidt: “As the Internet has demonstrated, open models create better services for consumers and stronger businesses for providers.”
Microsoft Corp. Senior Vice President of the Mobile Communications Business Pieter Knook: “Microsoft is very excited to see Verizon Wireless make such a bold move to satisfy the demands of wireless consumers. As people’s mobile needs become more sophisticated and varied, they will require smarter and more adaptable mobile devices. We are proud to support any open access that puts more power in people’s hands to connect them to the information they want when and where they want it.”
Silicon Alley Insider’s Dan Frommer: “Verizon’s announcement will be more meaningful in a few years when more devices–not just cellphones–use wireless data networks.”
Valleywag’s Owen Thomas: “But Verizon’s latest move shows that it’s not that the phone companies are resistant to the idea of openness. They oppose, rather, the notion that Google should get to set the rules for competition–rules that will no doubt smooth the way for the sale of mobile advertising on terms favorable to Google’s offerings.”
TechCrunch’s Erick Schonfeld: “You didn’t think Verizon was just going to let Google waltz right in and take its customers for a spin, did you? But if Verizon doesn’t make it easy for developers and unaffiliated device manufacturers to get onto its network, it could end up tripping over its own feet.”
Infectious Greed’s Paul Kedrosky: “In practice, what does it really mean? It’s tough to say and the announcement is short on specifics. For now, color me encouraged, but highly skeptical until we have more than some PR puffery. Will they really let you hook up your own GPS device, wireless data thingie, etc., with no additional fees assuming you have an account? I find that hard to believe, but hey, I can be convinced.”
GigaOm’s Om Malik: “Do we really believe that Verizon is going to be happy being Pipes-R-Us?”
Well, that–at least–we don’t believe.
Please see this disclosure related to me and Google.