Optical/IP Networks

Verizon & Google Build on Android

Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) and Verizon Wireless say that they intend to go beyond phones in their new Android deal, with plans to introduce a range of devices using the open-source mobile operating system over the coming years.

Google CEO Eric Schmidt and Verizon Wireless chief Lowell McAdam teamed up Tuesday morning to unveil the deal. The firms say they will work with "leading handset manufacturers" to find, market, and distribute a family of products and services using Verizon Wireless's distribution channels. Verizon will announce its first Android handsets in the coming weeks.

"We expect to have two of them, which will just be the beginning of our roadmap," McAdam said. "We expect to have multiple devices a year, but we don’t really have a hard target yet."

The companies aren't yet describing all the devices they are planning beyond Android handsets under the multiyear deal, but they made it clear that phones are not the only Android-powered items that will play on the Verizon network over time. Netbooks are definitely on the menu.

The move indicates how far Verizon has moved since it initially opposed Federal Communications Commission (FCC) plans to make part of the 700MHz spectrum "open" in 2007. (See Google Confirms 700MHz Bid.)

"This is another big step in our Open Development initiative," McAdam said.

In this vein, the cellular boss was asked on the Q&A session if this meant that Verizon would support the "Google Voice" application on the Verizon network. The VoIP application is currently not available to iPhone users on the AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) network, as it has yet to gain approval on the Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) App Store.

McAdam says Verizon will support the Google Voice application. "You either have an open device or not," he said.

Google's Schmidt said that working with Verizon on the open-source deal had been "enormously surprising" given the traditionally closed "walled garden" approach that cellular carriers have taken to phones and applications in the past.

The deal has not in any way been influenced by the most current debates over network neutrality, however, both CEOs said. Schmidt noted that that the companies have been talking about a deal for 18 months.

"One of the worst things you can do is manage your business by what’s going on in the newspaper," McAdam quipped.

The Verizon Android deal means that AT&T is the last of the big four U.S. operators not to carry the Google phones. There are now nine announced devices using the operating system. (See The Android Shopping List.) — Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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