The Google phone has landed another network, but not the Apple iPhone. Those are two early conclusions to be drawn from the announcement today that Verizon Wireless will open its network to non-Verizon devices and applications.
Other details are scant. But the essence is that Verizon will allow non-Verizon devices that it deems safe to connect to its network. Those cellphones will operate under different pricing than the devices that Verizon now sells and won't get the support that Verizon offers current customers. The "walled garden" that Verizon operates will still be available to customers who want assured quality and support, says CEO Lowell McAdam: "We will have multiple models."
So I won't be able to add capabilities to my Verizon-sold BlackBerry, like the GPS that Verizon crippled. But I could go out and buy a GPS phone running the software that Google will help develop, and connect it to Verizon's network. I'd have to get support from LG or whatever company made the Google phone, and we know how bad support can be from hardware makers. I also wouldn't have access to the applications that Verizon sells on its handsets, such as VZ Navigator.
And there's no iPhone yet, because Apple doesn't make an iPhone for the networks that Sprint and Verizon use. The iPhone is designed for the different wireless technology that AT&T uses, and AT&T has exclusive control over the iPhone for a while. But if priced reasonably, and the technical details are not too demanding, Verizon's move should speed development of new iPhones or iPhone competitors. It could also spur other innovation, such as digital cameras and gaming devices that can connect over a cell network.
Those will come later. For the first year or two, I expect the new open side of Verizon's network will attract only early adopters, us geeks willing to fiddle and fix problems that arise from new tech like the Google phone. How many others come will depend on the devilish details.