When it comes to wireless, Google is full of hot air. But Verizon Wireless has now popped Google's bubble. By next year, CEO Lowell McAdam declares, Verizon Wireless will open its network to any devices that meet its technical standards. An important note: Verizon's standards, not Google's. Google will likely squawk at this. It's complained before, specifically about Verizon, and found willing ears among Silicon Valley's hopelessly naive press corps.
Earlier this month, BusinessWeek reported that "Google had become frustrated with phone companies that were blocking some Google applications from being used on phones attached to their networks." Which phone companies? Which applications? Which phones? The BusinessWeek article conveniently omitted such details, and neither Google nor the publication offered comment on the record when I asked for them.
That's because, I suspect, there are no real examples. Google's Chris Sacca, the leader of the company's wireless "special projects," has been talking up the evils of big, bad phone companies like Verizon. But Verizon's latest move shows that it's not that the phone companies are resistant to the idea of openness. They oppose, rather, the notion that Google should get to set the rules for competition — rules that will no doubt smooth the way for the sale of mobile advertising on terms favorable to Google's offerings.
With Android, its mobile-phone OS, and OpenSocial, its widget platform for social networks, Google is trying to upset others' applecarts. But make no mistake: This isn't because Google is trying to do good and fight for openness. It's because Google, in negotiations with players like Verizon and Facebook, isn't getting its ways. Releasing software APIs may seem like a particularly nerdy and passive-aggressive way of throwing a temper tantrum. But make no mistake: That's exactly what Google's been doing. Expect more bawling and rolling around on the floor at the Googleplex at Verizon's latest move.
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