Is Verizon Joining LiMo to Spite Google?

Verizon puts its weight behind LiMo, widening the gulf between itself and rival Google.

Despite tame comments and a willingness to consider supporting Google's Android platform, Verizon's strong support of the LiMo Foundation could color in the battle lines between not only Google and Verizon, but also the Google-backed Open Handset Alliance and LiMo.

LiMo, a global consortium comprising 40 companies dedicated to creating Linux-based handsets as alternatives to smart phones running the Symbian, Windows Mobile and Palm operating systems, on May 14 announced Verizon Wireless, the Mozilla Foundation, Infineon Technologies, Kvaleberg, Red Bend Software, Sagem Mobiles, SFR and SK Telecom as new members.

LiMo is seen by many as an alternative to Android, the Google-backed mobile operating platform based on Linux. However, LiMo Executive Director Morgan Gillis has told eWEEK and reaffirmed on a conference call May 14 that the LiMo platform is just the middleware. Handset makers and operators choose the user interface and applications they want to run on it.

Google is offering the entire operating system stack with Android: middleware, user interface and applications in an "all or nothing" approach, he said.

During the call, Kyle Malady, vice president of network for Verizon, responded to every question about Android with diplomacy and proclaimed Linux as the phone carrier's preferred operating system.

"Let me underscore, we are wholeheartedly endorsing the LiMo Foundation's approach and have decided to dedicate company resources-financial, intellectual and personnel-to fulfill their mission of a highly flexible, evolving and truly opening operating system," Malady said.

He added that Verizon, to ensure fair competition, will not exclude supporting other mobile operating systems, including RIM's OS, Windows Mobile, Palm's OS and BREW. Malady said Verizon Wireless won't offer Linux mobile devices until 2009.

He also said that the carrier is weighing whether or not to support Android, though his comments were hardly encouraging in that regard compared with the strong embrace of LiMo.

"I expect to see you will find OHA devices in the marketplace... Certainly, there might be a segment for them and we will continue to watch that. If there comes to be a point where we see this benefit for our customers, we could use that... As long as it can meet our minimum requirements, we'll see that proliferating throughout," Malady said, without saying the name Android.