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Summary:

Verizon Wireless today issued a call for developers to attend a May 13 conference to learn how to develop devices for the fourth-generation LTE network due to roll out starting in 2010. And in keeping with the requirements set by the FCC when the carrier won […]

Verizon Wireless today issued a call for developers to attend a May 13 conference to learn how to develop devices for the fourth-generation LTE network due to roll out starting in 2010. And in keeping with the requirements set by the FCC when the carrier won the chunk of 700 MHz spectrum at auction last year, there’s a lot of talk about openness and transparency in the announcement. But will Verizon really use this as a starting point to bring open devices to its network, or is this just a way to keep regulators happy?

Verizon hosted this type of conference in March of last year, promoting its openness and calling for developers to build gadgets that would run on its network. Nine months later, in January of 2009, it had fewer than 30 open devices to show off on its 3G network — none of which were consumer-facing. That’s not the level of openness the industry was hoping for.

The mandates associated with the 700 MHz spectrum may change things up a bit, but I’m not terribly confident that healthy competition among devices will result, especially on the voice or even data access card side. Verizon’s CEO has claimed the carrier will see 500 percent subscription penetration with LTE, but my guess is that we’ll see openness geared toward e-readers, MP3 players and M2M applications rather than the ability to port a phone or data card from one LTE network to another. Any device a developer builds that Verizon doesn’t like can still be held up in its testing labs, which means some truly innovative uses for always-on mobility may never see the light of day on Verizon’s supposedly open network.

  1. I have seen an evolution in Verizon’s stance and behavior. I believe that Verizon will be open and they would approve all the devices that will be revenue enhancers without eating in to their existing profit margins. M2M, voice and audio devices, Netbooks, MIDs, etc. will be welcome. There will be reluctance on Verizon’s part to VoIP and Messaging devices (especially the later) as they will eat in to their tremendous margins.

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  2. Jesse Kopelman Friday, April 17, 2009

    “it had fewer than 30 open devices to show off on its 3G network — none of which were consumer-facing.”

    This is the key. The openness that Verizon is embracing does not extend to the consumer domain. The are perfectly happy to have 3rd party development, but everything will continue to go through them as the gatekeeper. In this, they are no different than Apple.

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  3. Stacy,

    The spec that Verizon released spoke strictly to hardware requirements. With respect to software or services, it didn’t tell us much beyond noting a requirement that devices include a TCP/IP stack. Wow — who knew? :-)

    Their press release quotes Tony Lewis, VP of Open Development at Verizon Wireless, as saying, “Hardware is the starting point, and Verizon Wireless is encouraging developers to get excited about designing innovative products and services the future requires.”

    Obviously, hardware’s necessary, but is it the “starting point?” I’m not so sure.

    Before committing resources to hardware or software development, I’d want to know:

    1. What apps and services will be allowed to run on the phone and over the network?
    2. Who makes the rules on Question #1?

    I’d like to see a device that starts with a browser that’s actually has a USABLE interface, but that also provides support for (1) rich applications built on Javascript, Python, Java, Objective C, etc.; (2) transient and persistent data storage; and (3) the ability to work via SQL with networked *or* local databases. Some of these requirements should be embodied in Verizon’s spec. And any restrictions that would impede the use of those capabilities need to be spelled out from the get-go.

    I’d also like Verizon to issue a spec on core services that ought to be standardized across devices — for example, a standard model for managing/storing information on the device that relate to address books, calendars, and messaging (email, SMS, IM, voicemail). Along with APIs for other apps on the device to interface with each of those elements — or for other devices to connect to them, via a wired connection, Bluetooth, 802.11, or the LTE network.

    It should also map out a basic security model that devices on the network need to employ.

    Will something like this happen? Or will we still have a situation where, as is the case today, Verizon serves as gatekeeper and won’t even allow a phone user install Google’s Gmail app?

    The big game is at the service level, not the hardware level. Will the big game be open, or is it still closed?

    Pete Farmer

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  4. Stacy,

    The spec that Verizon released spoke strictly to hardware requirements. With respect to software or services, it didn’t tell us much beyond noting a requirement that devices include a TCP/IP stack. Wow — who knew? :-)

    Their press release quotes Tony Lewis, VP of Open Development at Verizon Wireless, as saying, “Hardware is the starting point, and Verizon Wireless is encouraging developers to get excited about designing innovative products and services the future requires.”

    Obviously, hardware’s necessary, but is it the “starting point?” I’m not so sure.

    Before committing resources to hardware or software development, I’d want to know:

    1. What apps and services will be allowed to run on the phone and over the network?
    2. Who makes the rules on Question #1?

    I’d like to see a device that starts with a browser that actually has a USABLE interface, but that also provides support for (1) rich applications built on Javascript, Python, Java, Objective C, etc.; (2) transient and persistent data storage; and (3) the ability to work via SQL with networked *or* local databases. Some of these requirements should be embodied in Verizon’s spec. And any restrictions that would impede the use of those capabilities need to be spelled out from the get-go.

    I’d also like Verizon to issue a spec on core services that ought to be standardized across devices — for example, a standard model for managing/storing information on the device that relate to address books, calendars, and messaging (email, SMS, IM, voicemail). Along with APIs for other apps on the device to interface with each of those elements — or for other devices to connect to them, via a wired connection, Bluetooth, 802.11, or the LTE network.

    It should also map out a basic security model that devices on the network need to employ.

    Will something like this happen? Or will we still have a situation where, as is the case today, Verizon serves as gatekeeper and won’t even allow a phone user to install Google’s Gmail app?

    The big game is at the service level, not the hardware level. Will the big game be open, or is it still closed?

    Pete Farmer

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  5. [...] to GigaOm: Is Verizon Really Ready to Open Up Its Network?. Tags: handsets, LTE, mobile, Verison Category: Posts to other blogs  |  Comment [...]

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  6. Thomas Welsh Friday, April 17, 2009

    One of the reasons I refuse to move to the obviously superior network that Verizon offers is that Verizon will not, overnight, change its stance and move beyond feigned support for open devices or any situation that would put it at risk of being a mere supplier of broadband internet access.

    Thomas Welsh

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  7. Gotta Sony G3 camera that has wifi from AT&T until 2012. Have a Nokia GSM based phones that you can mess around with stuff that isn’t written by Nokia. Neither of those two might sound all that “open” nor relevant to what Verizon is attempting to do, but they are and Verizon is no where to be found. They won’t be either. If Apple is locked down, how come my Macbook allows me to download whatever, a jail broken iPhone is able to do more than a non-jailbroken one is allowed to do…how do you “Jailbreak” Verizon? You don’t, that’s the problem, no room for negotiation on this one, they are locked down (as are the other CDMA carriers in the US) and this is how it will stay. Hope and pray for a change all you want, but it isn’t coming…MM

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