Google, Verizon teaming to develop Android devices

New strategic partnership to develop smartphones, PDAs and netbooks

Verizon and Google have entered into an agreement to jointly develop wireless devices based on Google's open source Android mobile platform.

During a teleconference Tuesday, Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam and Google CEO Eric Schmidt outlined the companies' new strategic partnership that will see them working together to develop Android-based smartphones, PDAs and netbooks, and to deliver users with applications sold through the Android Market app store. Verizon says that it will have two Android-based handsets on the market by year-end with more to come by 2010.

One year on, Android's not quite there yet

Schmidt said that Google's partnership with Verizon was a significant development for the Android platform as it would give Android users access to what he described as the top wireless data network in the United States.

"It's a fact that Verizon's data network is the best," he said. "In terms of its reach, its scalability and performance, there's no question."

However, Schmidt also praised Verizon for its evolving attitude toward opening up its network to more third-party applications, devices and open source operating systems. Schmidt said that Google has been pleasantly surprised to see Verizon take a more positive stance toward network openness, as the company had traditionally expressed opposition to opening up its network to outside devices and applications.

"From the standpoint of working with Verizon, we had known of their reach, but we did not know that they would take a leadership position on openness," Schmidt said. "It has been surprising, but they have decided to embrace a different philosophy that's more compatible with the Internet."

Two years ago, Verizon sued the FCC over the open-access rules that it placed on a block of spectrum in the 700MHz auction. Since then, however, Verizon has taken steps to transform its image into a company that promotes more openness on its network. Specifically the carrier has embraced the Android platform and has given its customers the option of connecting to its network through outside devices.

During a question-and-answer session after the companies' joint announcement, McAdam also said that Verizon would support Google Voice on its Android handsets once they were officially released later this year. Google Voice, an application that Google developed to enable users to switch wireless carriers without changing their phone numbers, sparked controversy in recent months after Apple allegedly rejected the application for use on its popular iPhone device. In particular, Apple allegedly told Google executives it had concerns that Google Voice would "alter the iPhone's distinctive user experience by replacing the iPhone's core mobile telephone functionality and Apple user interface with its own user interface for telephone calls, text messaging and voice mail." McAdam, however, said that Verizon had no such concerns that Google Voice would render its own wireless network redundant.

Additionally, McAdam denied that his company's embrace of more openness on its network and its partnership with Google had anything to do with the proposed network neutrality regulations that the FCC is considering. Under the proposed regulations, carriers would not be allowed to favor certain types of content or applications over others and they could not degrade traffic of Internet companies that offer services similar to those of the carriers. Carriers would also be required to give their customers more detailed descriptions of their traffic management policies.

"One of the worst things you can do to is manage you business based on what's going on in the newspapers," he said. "This agreement came about because we both want to make something that's exciting to our customers."

With Tuesday's announcement, Verizon has officially become the third major U.S. wireless carrier to support devices based on the Android operating system, as both Sprint and T-Mobile have also started putting Android devices on the market. The Android platform, which was developed by Google back in 2007, is a Linux-based open platform for mobile devices that includes an operating system, middleware and some key mobile applications. Google has been promoting the platform as a way to spur innovation in developing mobile applications that will give users the same experience surfing the Web on their phone as they currently have on their desktop computers.

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Brad Reed

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