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Verizon strokes Google's Android

The New Wireless Order

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Google has teamed up with Verizon Wireless to jointly develop a long line of Android-based mobile devices for use on America's largest cellular network.

Two Android phones will arrive on Verizon's network before the end of the year, and the two companies indicated their Android line will eventually include non-phones as well, including netbooks.

Google chief Eric Schmidt and Verizon boss Lowell McAdam announced the partnership during a webcast from New York on Tuesday. Eighteen months in the works, the deal brings together two companies that were once bitter rivals in the rather amusing war over open wireless access.

In early 2008, Google famously gamed the FCC's 700-MHz wireless auction, sticking Verizon with an open access requirement the telco fought so hard to avoid. And even after the requirement was in place, the Mountain View Chocolate Factory continued to question how open Verizon's network would be.

But in the new wireless order that followed the 700-MHz auction - not to mention the arrival of Apple's iPhone on AT&T's network - Verizon can't help but repaint itself as an open champion. "[Google and Verizon] are committed to devoting substantial resources over the next several years to bring the latest applications - in fact, industry-leading applications - to our customers on the latest third generation and fourth generation broadband networks," Verizon chief McAdam said. "Devices will come loaded with innovative applications from both our companies as well as from third-party leading-edge developers around the world."

Naturally, the Google-Verizon devices will include the Android Marketplace - Google's answer to the iPhone App Store - and the first phones should offer Google Voice, the telephony app famously unavailable on Steve Jobs' handheld status symbol.

"You either have an open device or not, and this will be open," McAdam said. "We expect to bring [Google Voice] to market when we bring the first device out."

Eric Schmidt at least alluded to the fact that such Verizon talk is, shall we say, a new approach.

"[Google] did not know - until we spent some time getting to know each other - that [Verizon] would take such a leadership position on openness, which was frankly enormously surprising given the history and the old-line nature of telcos," Schmidt spun, in his typically haughty tones.

Verizon is the third US carrier to embrace Android, following T-Mobile and Sprint. T-Mobile debuted the first Android phone more than a year ago, and Sprint followed this fall. McAdam said the first Google-Verizon phones will be formally announced in "the next several weeks." Tuesday's partnership announcement comes on the eve of the CTIA Wireless trade show in San Diego.

Meanwhile, Verizon has launched a series of television adverts aimed at all those American iPhone users who've grown increasing annoyed at the network coverage provided by exclusive Apple partner AT&T. One ad plays off Apple's ubiquitous "There's an app for that" ads:

"If you want to know why your 3G coverage works so well on Verizon Wireless, there's a map for that," the ads says, a Verizon coverage map appears above the head of a strolling Verizon customer. Then an AT&Ter appears. "If you want to know why some people have spotty 3G coverage," the ad says, "there's a map for that too." ®

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