Verizon Wireless doesn't yet have any solid plans to support Android, Google's forthcoming open-source mobile software, despite reports that the operator had joined the Android club, a company spokeswoman said.
"Verizon has not yet decided whether we will use Android in any of the devices we ourselves offer," said Nancy Stark, a Verizon spokeswoman, on Tuesday.
Her comments sound very different from those made by Verizon Wireless President and CEO Lowell McAdam in a Business Week article that appeared late on Tuesday. In the article, he's quoted as saying that Verizon is planning to use Android.
Verizon announced its new open-access policy last week. It's designed to allow any device that meets the operator's technical standards to use the network and run any software application. Verizon expects some developers to use Android to create devices and applications that could run on Verizon's network as part of the new program, but the company hasn't decided whether it will use the software itself, Stark said. Verizon also hasn't decided yet if it will join the Open Handset Alliance, the group supporting Android, Stark said.
The discrepancy between McAdam's comments and those from the spokeswoman point to the hype and uncertainty around Android, said Jack Gold, an analyst at J. Gold Associates. "I think what we're seeing is people jumping on the hype bandwagon, as people do before something is real and tangible enough to determine what it's going to look like," he said. While the Android software development kit is out, the software itself isn't, so no one really knows if the platform will cause problems for wireless networks or if it will be solid and ultimately bring revenue for operators, he noted.
When Google introduced Android in early November, T-Mobile and Sprint Nextel said they were part of the Open Handset Alliance, in support of Android. AT&T and Verizon were notably absent from the group of supporters.
The hype around Android and moves to open up the wireless market are indicative of a bigger shift in the market away from operators fully controlling access to their networks, Gold said. "What we're seeing is a realization that the wireless market is maturing, that it has to open up, that these carriers are going to find a lot of competition from folks putting up WiMax or other networks, and they can't just sit there like the old days," he said.
Charles Golvin, a Forrester Research analyst, agreed. "All these guys, AT&T included, recognize that just like AOL's closed model was ultimately doomed, the closed model for Internet-based applications for mobile is ultimately doomed, although it's a much slower process to play out," he said. "Even two years ago, Verizon told me they were planning to gradually break down some of the walls of their walled gardens," he said. Verizon's new open policy and a broad acceptance of Android show that the model is changing, Golvin said.