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Verizon fondling Google Android?

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Verizon continues to embrace what it once despised.

One week after the mega-telco announced that it would open its wireless network to non-Verizon devices and applications, chief executive officer Lowell McAdam has told Business Week that the company will "get behind" Android, the very open mobile phone operating system recently announced by Google.

Does this mean the company will use Android on its own mobile phones? That's still unclear. "We're planning on using Android," is what McAdam told BusinessWeek. "Android is an enabler of what we do."

If this is true, Verizon isn't doing what it did just a few weeks ago. When Google announced Android in early November, it was backed back by more than 30 members of the new Open Handset Alliance, including wireless operators Sprint Nextel and the Deutsche Telekom-owned T-Mobile. But Verizon's name was conspicuously absent.

This was no surprise. Verizon's network has always been completely closed to third-party devices and applications, and in recent months, the company has fought particularly hard to keep it that way. After the FCC attached an open access requirement to the so-called 700-MHz band, a prime portion of the US wireless spectrum to be auctioned off in January, Verizon tried to quash the decision via a US court of appeals.

In a petition filed with the court, Verizon called the FCC's decision "arbitrary, capricious, unsupported by substantial evidence, and otherwise contrary to law".

But after the court refused to fast-track the case, meaning things wouldn't be decided before auction time, Verizon dropped its complaint. And now that Google has mounted a considerable army behind Android and announced its own plans to bid for the 700-MHz spectrum, Verizon has completely changed its tune. To put it mildly.

Last week, the company said it would open its network to third-party devices by the end of 2008, and though it wouldn't officially back Android at the time, McAdam now seems to have done so.

That said, a Verizon spokeswoman tells us that the company has not yet decided whether to use Android on its own phones. In speaking with Business Week, she says, McAdams was merely saying that third-party developers would have the option of using Android on devices they might build for the network.

"We fully expected the some in the development community are going to embrace Android in the devices and application they develop and bring to out network," says Nancy Stark. "But Verizon Wireless has not decided whether we're going to use Android in any devices that we offer." ®

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