Verizon's group hug: now it also supports Android

Verizon's U-turn continues: the carrier now announced that they would support the Android OS promoted by the Google-led Open Handset Alliance. This comes only days after Verizon was met with a lot of raised eyebrows after it declared it would open up to handset manufacturers, service and application providers. Upon the launch of Android, Verizon was amongst a select few that were visibly reluctant to support the initiative, reportedly for fear of impinging on their customer base by not being able to control the user experience.

This move may well be an attempt to prevent Google from bidding in the 700 MHz spectrum, the auction for which goes ahead tonight: Google may not see the necessity to bid just as aggressively if it can basically fall back on an OS-agnostic carrier as it can then continue doing what it does best, namely sell ads. The proximity of the dates may indeed point into that direction.

Verizon Wireless had created the most profitable U.S. cellular business by tightly restricting the devices and applications allowed to run on its network. However, its management apparently now came to conclude that it was time for a radical shift: this will have been out of fear to be isolated in a niche when the rest of the market was overrun by new, more powerful devices as well as media empires old and new both of which would bring a richness of offerings mid-term that Verizon could not have supported within the constraints of its tightly-controlled environment.

It may also have thought that opening up would help them to keep growing while containing costs; probably a bit of everything. That last bit is of course one of the reasons that led many partners to throw their weight behind the various OS campaigns that recently appeared to have picked up pace: the LiMo Foundation, C-based Nokia-owned OS Symbian and the Sony Ericsson and Motorola-owned UIQ (in which Motorola had just acquired a 50% stake; see here) will also be driven by the OEM's attempt to contain cost. Unified OS make mass production much cheaper (and the famously robust Linux kernel also will allow stability whilst being flexible enough to allow enough flavours to keep every marketing and UI expert happy, too).

Everyone coming to their senses? Oh, brave new world.

German iPhone exclusive again...

German carrier T-Mobile today scored a victory against competitor Vodafone: the court declared that the exclusive deal the carrier struck with Apple over the distribution of the iPhone, the coveted darling of mobile fashionistas, in Germany.

The court ruled that it could not find a violation of German competition or anti-trust laws. Vodafone had invoked an injunction forcing the sale of unlocked devices, following which T-Mobile offered the unlocked device without a contract for a whopping EUR 999. This let a competitor, Debitel, into offering a cheaper contract to owners of such unlocked iPhones under the terms of which they would also get EUR 600 back (the difference between the T-Mobile price for locked and unlocked models).

The decision is not final; Vodafone has the right to appeal. Also, the judgment does not do away with the fact that French law prevents the closed business model favoured by Apple where it is also on offer unlocked. Under European law, unlocked French iPhones can be re-sold in every EU country once deployed in the marketplace.

The biggest impact of this of course is that it effectively puts Apple's approach to force operators to pay it cut of the usage revenues under threat. This might now be averted as cross-border trade will likely remain marginal compared to overall sales.

Circular Entertainment is with you -- or not...

What's mobile in the following? Well, Nokia is involved and it is a development that would surely affect the mobile screen! A survey commissioned by Nokia found that, by 2012, one quarter of all media will be created and consumed from within a circle of peers rather than from traditional media. The ongoing rise of social media then, which the survey dubs "circular entertainment".

In the course of the study consumers from 17 countries were interviewed about their digital behaviors and lifestyles signposting emerging entertainment trends. Combining views from "industry leading figures" with Nokia's own research from the 900m people that use their phones , Nokia apparently "constructed a global picture of what it believes entertainment will look like over the next five years." Bless them...

Nokia's VP multimedia Mark Selby said that "[t]he trends we are seeing show us that people will have a genuine desire not only to create and share their own content, but also to remix it, mash it up and pass it on within their peer groups - a form of collaborative social media." So the NY Times' executive editor, Bill Keller, was right when he suspected that the "media tsunami" that is aggregated and re-purposed content today is threatening the place of traditional media.

The chaps from the Future Laboratory, who conducted the survey, went even further: "Key to this evolution is consumers' basic human desire to compare and contrast, create and communicate. We believe the next episode promises to deliver the democracy politics can only dream of." So Bush and Putin aren't all that scary after all? Phew!

I have some doubts if the survey really captures the mainstream, or otherwise society is further than I would have thought. These are the numbers they posted (based on the 9,000 consumers they surveyed):

  • 23% buy movies in digital format
  • 35% buy music on MP3 files
  • 25% buy music on mobile devices
  • 39% watch TV on the internet
  • 23% watch TV on mobile devices
  • 46% regularly use IM, 37% on a mobile device
  • 29% regularly blog
  • 28% regularly access social networking sites
  • 22% connect using technologies such as Skype
  • 17% take part in Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games
  • 17% upload to the internet from a mobile device
A simple test: if the above was representative, then a cool 1.1 billion (!) people regularly upload to the Internet from a mobile device and we would have more than 1.8 billion regular bloggers and mobile TV is a massive reality with 1.5 billion consumers using it (that would be 55% of all mobile users today). Hmmm. Hey guys, where are you???

It goes on: as part of the research Nokia says it has identified four key driving trends, which are - apparently - Immersive Living, Geek Culture, G Tech and Localism. What? You don't know what G Tech is? Yes, it is derived from the coveted G Spot and here's what it is (according to Nokia): "G Tech is an existing social force in Asia that will change the way entertainment will look. Forget pink and sparkly, it is about the feminization of technology that is currently underway. Entertainment will be more collaborative, democratic, emotional and customized - all of which are 'female' traits." Localism of course is the intrinsic interest in the locale (which is easy when you live, as I do, in the town of Ian Curtis, the unforgotten lead of Joy Division but what do you do when you live on Exit 7 of the Interstate 40 West in Oklahoma?).

With all due respect to Nokia, a company I really and truly greatly respect: this looks both a bit airy-fairy to me and bears succinct resemblance to a result-driven PR release. Or am I wrong in suspecting that Nokia has a certain vested interest in pushing location-sensitive content and information? What was the price of Navteq again? $8.1bn? Ah, I see...