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verizonssVerizon Wireless today unveiled the specifications for its open network and promised to partner with inventors to grow the industry. That sounds good, but what does it really mean?

On the consumer end, unless you’re willing to pay several hundred dollars for a phone, you’re still likely to end up signing one of those 2-year contracts. On the developer end, you’re going to need to create a device that adheres to CDMA (the network protocol Verizon uses) standards, as well as some “supplemental requirements” — which is a vague way for Verizon to call this an “open” network, while still having rules.

Don’t get me wrong, this certainly seems like a step in the right direction — but it also sounds a bit like things won’t be that different at all.

Some of the quotes from the company’s Open Development Device Conference are also telling:

“The technical specifications aren’t rigorous and are based on industry standards,” said Tony Melone, chief technology officer for Verizon Wireless.

“The certification process won’t be lengthy, costly or complicated,” said Tony Lewis, vice president of open development for Verizon Wireless.

That’s a lot of “aren’ts” and “won’ts” — these statements sound downright defensive.

Before Apple unveiled the iPhone last June, the mobile industry seemed like a much different place. Back then, every company wasn’t tripping over one another to out-“open” its competition. Instead, we had a group of closed companies, content to lock customers in and rack up monthly overages.


Shortly after the iPhone emerged, talk of a “Google Phone” began to heat up. This rumor eventually revealed itself to be Google’s Android mobile development platform.

The iPhone and Android coupled with Google’s entrance into the wireless spectrum auction had wireless companies rightly spooked. The word “open” not only became the new buzz word of the mobile industry, but a competition of sorts erupted to see which of the major mobile providers could be the most open. Verizon said it was opening its network, then AT&T said it would be even more open, then Sprint tried to position itself as the most open of all (our coverage).

While the “open” plans were being made, the mobile companies next engaged in a price war. Verizon and AT&T both promised unlimited calling plans for $99-a-month. Not to be outdone (and in a weak position as the 3rd-place carrier), Sprint promised unlimited calling plans as low as $60-a-month (our coverage).

Verizon’s announcements today may sound good, but consumers and developers should be cautious. The mobile industry is rapidly evolving right now, and each company is doing little more than attempting to say the right thing to get ahead.

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