Verizon Wireless, a phone carrier that doubled as the scourge of Google as recently as two months ago, loosened up in a major way today by proclaiming that customers will have the option of connecting hardware and software not sold by the company to its network.
Verizon Wireless next year will publish technical standards for developers who wish to design products to connect to the company's network. Any device or software that meets Verizon Wireless' technical standards will be activated on the network.
This is a major victory for Google and consumer advocacy groups who lobbied the Federal Communications Commission for open access. It may also be a sign that Google and Verizon are reviving talks regarding the Android stack.
"We think this is a great step forward," Google CEO Eric Schmidt said in a statement provided to Google Watch. "As the Internet has demonstrated, open models create better services for consumers and stronger businesses for providers. We are excited to work with Verizon and other industry leaders to achieve this vision."
To this point, Verizon has resisted the notion of open networks by requiring customers to use phones and software sold only by the company. Verizon has contended that open access rules would favor one business model over another.
To reinforce its position against open access, Verizon actually sued the FCC for its rules over the January 700MHz spectrum auction mandating an open network accessible to all legal devices and software. Verizon dropped the suit with little account as to why, a precursor to today's play.
What could all of this mean? First, I think Verizon got a good idea of which way the wind is blowing with regard to the FCC's freedom with Google. This could be a lesson in "if you can't beat 'em join 'em."
I think this move will revive the rumors spawned on Halloween about Google and Verizon working together. I think Verizon's agreement for open access will pave the way for it to join Android.
If that happens, AT&T will likely not follow suit (a black eye as the large, lone U.S. carrier and Android holdout), and Google will have the major U.S. phone carriers primed and ready to help pump out Google phones in 2008.
Google and Verizon will never be close friends, but I'm more curious than ever about Google's alleged wireless network plans. Does Verizon's capitulation mean it's resigned itself to a Google wireless network, or does it mean Google has promised not to do one and to rely on Verizon and others to support its phones?
Google is nowhere near challenging Windows Mobile or Symbian yet, but Verizon's move is the latest piece in the 1,000 piece puzzle.