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Innovation

The Android army: Verizon Wireless, Google ink collaboration pact; Google Voice support on tap

Updated: Verizon Wireless and Google said Tuesday that they will partner to co-develop a bevy of Android-based devices. Verizon Wireless also said that it will tightly integrate its network with Google apps---including Google Voice.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor on

Updated: Verizon Wireless and Google said Tuesday that they will partner to co-develop a bevy of Android-based devices. Verizon Wireless also said that it will tightly integrate its network with Google apps---including Google Voice.

The terms of the deal (Techmeme) weren't disclosed, but the companies are looking to create innovative devices "pre-loaded with innovative
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applications from both parties as well as third-party developers." On a conference call, Verizon Wireless CEO Lowell McAdam said the deal will be a boon to mobile customers across the U.S. "Both companies are devoted to bringing the latest applications to third generation and fourth generation networks," said McAdam, who added that the partnership will enable Google and Verizon to accelerate device development.

Among other notable nuggets from the call:

  • Verizon will support Google Voice. McAdam said "the device is either open or it's not."
  • The Android market will be preloaded on Verizon devices.
  • The deal covers phones and netbooks.
  • McAdam said new Android devices would be announced shortly with two devices, which were described as the first installment of a multi-year roadmap. There is no hard target for the number of Android devices, but there will be a wide range of them.
  • There were some subtle hints about ad revenue, but it's unclear what the Google-Verizon split is. Safe to say it's likely favorable to Verizon.

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Credit: Cybermen from Dr. Who, BBC.

A tight partnership between Verizon and Google is clearly aimed directly at the AT&T/Apple/iPhone juggernaut. Verizon and Google are forming an Android army designed to tackle a common foe. Android is aiming at the iPhone in terms of applications, usability and the sheer number of devices. And Verizon is looking to hit AT&T in the chops by wrapping itself in network reliability and open devices.

Google CEO Eric Schmidt took aim at AT&T indirectly and did some of McAdam's bidding. "It's an absolute fact that Verizon's network is the best by far," said Schmidt. "We had known about that reach. We didn't know that they'd take a lead in openness. This is a network engineering company that makes it work and makes it scale. This is a major milestone in the Android platform. "

The two parties started talking 18 months ago, executives said.

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According to the companies, the aim is to develop unique applications and get them to consumers quickly. The two companies also say they are committed to collaborating for years to come.

For Verizon Wireless, which historically has trailed other carriers with bleeding edge devices, the deal with Google could help it be more of a leader in the buzz department. Meanwhile, a tight partnership with Google should give Verizon Wireless more clout with the developers it is trying to woo.

And for Google the pact with Verizon Wireless means there will be more Android devices in the field.

In the end, this Google-Verizon partnership is really about economies of scale. Google wants to scale Android and mobile search. Verizon wants a developer footprint and cutting edge applications.

My take: It's a bit hard for me as a Verizon Wireless customer to not be excited a bit about this deal. Typically, there has been a trade-off with Verizon Wireless between cutting edge devices and network reliability. Given the way my phone is used (mostly as a tethered wireless modem) I went with the reliability. Meanwhile, I was seriously leaning toward the Android platform for my next mobile phone, currently a BlackBerry Storm, and checking out the new Motorola devices. As a Verizon customer, the Google partnership is well timed. The proof will be in the execution, but my initial take is positive. Given the joint enemy, Apple/AT&T, it's in the best interest of both parties to follow through.

Verizon made sure that it said that the Google deal doesn't mean that it isn't chummy with other partners. After all, RIM and Verizon are tight. However, you have to wonder whether this Google deal takes any potential iPhone partnership off the table.

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