This morning Google and Verizon Wireless announced a "Groundbreaking Agreement to Leverage High-Speed Network and Open Android Platform for Wireless Innovation". The skeptically inclined might be tempted to reduce the announcement to a single headline:
Verizon Wireless Jumps On The Android Bandwagon.
After all, T-Mobile just announced their fourth Android handset (the first from Samsung), Sprint announced the first Android-based CDMA device (HTC's 'Hero') would be available October 11th, and clearly the two big carriers have been evaluating the Android platform for their own use — if only to stymie the differentiation that T-Mobile is currently enjoying.
This skeptical view might indeed prove to be accurate. Both parties say this will extend beyond handsets to include netbooks and other devices running Android (no word on ChromeOS-based netbooks), but that's hardly unexpected since Verizon sells netbooks today and is expanding support for "other" types of connected devices. (See their announcements on the IREX eReader and their JV with Qualcomm).
What's most interesting here is the confirmation that Verizon Wireless has adopted a significant change in attitude. Traditionally one of the most closed and restrictive providers when it comes to applications, handsets, and open access, Verizon clearly changed their outlook when they decided to bid on (and win) the C block in the FCC's 700 MHz auction. That block of national spectrum carried requirements, in large part due to effective lobbying by Google, that the network using it be open to all devices and that those devices be open to all applications (sometimes called "no lock" and "no block", respectively). Since winning the auction, Verizon has proactively worked with device makers and developers to ensure that new gadgets and applications will flow onto their network as seamlessly as possible.
This isn't the first time that Verizon has changed course and accelerated. When the FCC first made noise about requiring wireless number portability — the ability to take your mobile number with you when you change carriers — Verizon fought back hard. But at some point Verizon decided that number portability would be a net positive for them, they reversed course and aggressively positioned themselves as the proponent of the consumer, haranguing competitors for dragging their heels when porting numbers.
What do you think?