Posted by: Rob Hof on October 6, 2009
Google and Verizon, often at odds in the past, this morning announced a deal to co-develop handsets and other services using Google’s Android operating software. (Full release is below.)
In the next few weeks, Verizon will introduce Android-based handsets. Whether those handsets will come anywhere close to the utility and, let’s face it, sexiness of the iPhone remains to be seen, but if Verizon wants to get some of those iPhone lovers who now reluctantly use AT&T because that’s the only choice (in the U.S.), they’ll need to come closer than most Android phones have so far. For Google, though, getting Verizon, the largest wireless carrier in the U.S., on board no doubt will give a boost to Android, which has been seen as slow to take off.
The conference call with Google CEO Eric Schmidt and Verizon Wireless CEO Lowell McAdam is now underway. Cutting through the marketing-speak, here are the highlights:
McAdam is mostly quoting the press release so far, but notes that it's a strategic partnership to which both companies will devote "substantial resources" to bring applications on both 3G and 4G networks. It's interesting to hear him praise Google's openness several times.
The initial devices will be announced in the next few weeks.
Eric Schmidt also praises Verizon's network as the best in the U.S. He says Verizon's embrace of openness was "enormously surprising." "This partnership is a big deal for us," given Verizon's industry-leading 85 million wireless customers.
Now thankfully to the questions from the press and analysts:
Q: Will Android Market, the applications store, will be installed on the phones? Yes.
Q: Will Verizon support Google Voice? Yes. McAdam: You either have an open phone or not. Will be available with first device.
Q: How will this affect other Verizon handset partners, given that not all of them use Android? Don't see any issue there.
Q: How many phones will there be? McAdam: Expect to have two of them at the outset.
Andy Rubin, who heads Android at Google: Even a consumer can download the operating system.
Q: How will this deal impact Verizon's deal with Microsoft? Won't necessarily affect that.
Q: How will Google monetize this, through ads? Rubin: Google views the handset business as an extension to its current business, which is advertising.
Q: Is this deal timed to recent Net Neutrality policies? McAdam: No. Schmidt: About 18 months ago, he flew out to visit Google to start talking about this.
Q: Is Google coming out with hardware devices? No. But working together to seek out best possible form factors.
Well, that's it. Short and sweet. Hm. I'm sure it's a relatively important deal for both companies, but the fact that they didn't take the opportunity to make more of it makes me wonder how much short-term impact it will have on either company.
UPDATE: Ah, I see that this announcement could have been timed to usurp Microsoft's announcement of a new version of Windows Mobile, now called Windows Phone. After, it's not exactly new news that Verizon was supporting Android, since it embraced it nearly two years ago.
And here's the full release:
Groundbreaking Agreement Between Verizon Wireless and Google to Leverage High-Speed Network and Open Android Platform for Wireless Innovation
BASKING RIDGE, N.J., and MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif., Oct. 6 /PRNewswire/ -- Verizon Wireless and Google(TM) today announced a strategic partnership that will leverage the Verizon Wireless network and the best of the Android(TM) open platform to deliver leading-edge mobile applications, services and devices. Both companies view this agreement as an opportunity to offer consumers an array of products that combine the speed of the nation's largest and most reliable 3G network with the flexibility of the Android mobile platform.
Integral to this agreement is a commitment by the companies to devote substantial resources to accelerate delivery of leading-edge innovation that will put unique applications in the hands of consumers quickly. The two industry leaders will create, market and distribute products and services, with Verizon Wireless also contributing the breadth of its nationwide distribution channels. Consumers will be able to purchase products resulting from the collaboration in Verizon Wireless retail and online stores.
Verizon Wireless and Google plan to co-develop several Android-based devices that will be pre-loaded with innovative applications from both parties as well as third-party developers. The family of Android phones on the Verizon Wireless network will come from leading handset manufacturers.
"The nation's best wireless broadband network is a perfect complement to the innovation of Android-powered services and devices," said Lowell McAdam, chief executive officer of Verizon Wireless. "Together, we'll work to deliver a compelling new experience to our customers."
"The Android platform allows Verizon Wireless customers to experience faster and easier access to the web from any location," said Eric Schmidt, chairman and chief executive officer for Google. "Through this partnership, we hope to deliver greater innovation in the mobile space to consumers across the U.S."
The agreement will come to fruition within the next few weeks as Verizon Wireless introduces Android-based handsets.