Google Links Up With Verizon to Fight Apple

gigaom_icon_google-android2Updated with detail from the conference call: Verizon (s vz) and Google (s Goog) today said the carrier plans to launch Android handsets sometime in “the next few weeks,” and that the search giant will create Android-based devices preloaded with apps that will run on Verizon’s network. Straight off its snarky ad campaign attacking Apple’s iPhone, it looks like Verizon will finally offer consumers the type of next-generation mobile phone operating system and experience that have been available on AT&T (s T) and T-Mobile for more than a year. Meanwhile, Google gets a large carrier partner that can help it win over market share for Android.

Android By the Numbers
9 Android-powered devices with 32 carriers in 26 countries and 19 languages.
T-Mobile has the most Android phones. Sprint, and Verizon Wireless are the new additions.
All major handset makers have plans for new Android-powered phones, including: HTC, Samsung, LG and Motorola.
Android Market has more than 10,000 free and paid apps.
Users download about 40 apps, on an average.
Android 1.1 featured Search by Voice.
Android 1.5 came with an on-screen soft keyboard, video recording and easy uploading to YouTube, and widgets and live folders on the home screen.
Android 1.6, has a Quick Search Box to search apps, contacts, browser history, and the Web.
Source: Google

Verizon may be late to the party, have lame handsets and an expensive service, but I’m super excited about the news because I can’t wait to see the type of functionality that Motorola (s MOT) is offering with the upcoming CLIQ phone and Blur service via T-Mobile over at Verizon’s solid network. However, there are a few questions I want addressed at a webcast due to start within the hour. Verizon says the upcoming devices it will develop with Google will come pre-loaded with apps. What about the Android Market, will Verizon bump that in favor of its own app store? How will Verizon and Google share revenue from app sales? Plus, will Verizon allow Google to brand the phones it sells like T-Mobile currently does?

Also, how might this tie into the $1.3 billion in investment funds aimed at driving both devices and applications on Verizon’s network? That’s a lot of money, and spending that much on applications would be pretty difficult. However if that’s going toward device development, things may get interesting. With Android, a device maker isn’t limited to phones. So it’s possible that the company that’s brought out a revolutionary wired broadband product in FiOS is about to bring something just as game-changing to the wireless world in terms of a form factor and experience. And if it helps Google gain mobile device market share at the expense of Apple, that’s probably worth teaming up with one of its carrier frenemies.

Update: The press conference is over, so here are the tidbits you guys are waiting for. Yes, Android’s Market will come pre-loaded on Verizon phones, and Verizon will spend money marketing Android Apps and devices to its 85 million subscribers. Two new Android phones are expected within the next few weeks, with more coming in 2010. For those following the travails of Google Voice on the iPhone, Verizon says that it plans to ship its first Android device with Google Voice. Lowell McAdam, Verizon’s president and CEO, said that none of this is a response to the FCC’s net neutrality push but rather a smart business decision that was begun almost a year ago when Verizon execs met with Google to discuss Android.

Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt was on hand to both praise the Verizon network and to say he was “enormously surprised” at the level of openness Verizon was willing to embrace with regard to bringing Android devices to its network. The backhanded compliment aside, the two executives were cagey about how much money and emphasis Verizon will allocate to Android at the expense of other operating systems and handsets. While the execs said the companies would share revenue, they wouldn’t offer a breakdown of what that rev share would look like.

On the device side, Google doesn’t plan to actually build any Android deices for Verizon’s network, but will work with partners to find the best form factors beyond handsets. As for me, I’m still wondering if we’re going to see Android move from Verizon’s wireless devices to customer premise equipment made for Verizon’s wireline networks. Might we see an Android-powered FiOS set-top box or the Verizon hub running Android? This inquiring mind still wants to know.