Verizon Wireless Snubs Google, Joins LiMo

Wireless open source operating system

Verizon said Wednesday that it is joining the LiMo Foundation as a "core member" and will fill the last seat available on LiMo's board of directors, according to the Basking Ridge, N.J.-based carrier. Other new LiMo supporters also followed suit, including SK Telecom, Infineon Technologies, Kvaleberg, Mozilla, Red Bend Software, Sagem Mobiles and SFR.

"Verizon Wireless is committed and invested in encouraging innovation, providing developers the opportunity to deliver new wireless choices and expanding the mobile market," Kyle Malady, vice president of network for Verizon, said in a statement. "We expect our involvement with LiMo to advance these principles."

Verizon's announcement comes about a month after AT&T hinted that it would support Google's Android operating system, the Linux-based OS Google and roughly 30 partners are developing as part of the Open Handset Alliance, which already has some devices available. In April, AT&T, the No. 1 mobile service in the U.S, compared to Verizon at No. 2, hinted that it was interested in selling Android-based devices.

The shift toward openness is an about-face for Verizon, which once championed closed networks only to embrace openness late last year. Then, in February, Verizon hosted a developers' conference where it released and published information for new wireless devices that work on Verizon's "Any Device, Any App" network-only service option.

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According to Verizon, it expects to sell its first devices based on the open LiMo operating system sometime next year. The carrier didn't divulge how much of a financial commitment it made to the foundation, but noted that it will lower development costs.

"We'll start with a few simpler devices and work our way up," Malady said in a conference call Wednesday morning, according to Reuters.

And while Verizon will join the LiMo efforts, Malady added that it will also continue to support other operating systems like those used in Research In Motion's (RIM) BlackBerry smartphones, Windows Mobile, Palm and Brew, though LiMo would be Verizon's operating system of choice.

"We anticipate that as we move down the path of Linux, we'll be looking at it as the OS of choice in our handset lineup moving forward," Malady said.

On the conference call, Malady said Verizon expects to have a wide variety of high end and low end LiMo devices in the future. He added that Verizon is siding with LiMo over Google's Android because of LiMo's inclusive governing structure and its diverse lineup of members.

LiMo, which launched in January 2007, comprises roughly 40 mobility leaders and is bent on delivering an open and globally consistent handset software platform based on Mobile Linux for use by the entire mobile industry. The consortium was started by mobility leaders like Motorola, NEC, NTT DoCoMo, Panasonic Mobile Communications, Samsung Electronics and Vodafone, a partial owner of Verizon.

Malady noted, however, that Verizon would not rule out selling Android-based devices.

"If devices come along that are interesting to us and our customers we'd absolutely look at that," he said, adding that third-parties could also sell Android devices to Verizon Wireless customers if they work on the Verizon network.

Morgan Gillis, executive director of LiMo Foundation said Verizon joining the board is a strong step toward collaboration.

"This offers further concrete evidence that LiMo is positioned at the heart of the rapidly emerging, industry-wide trend to secure the benefits of openness and choice in technology," he said.

Kiyohito Nagata of NTT DoCoMo and chairperson of LiMo Foundation agreed.

"The addition of Verizon Wireless to the LiMo roster is another critical milestone in our foundation's rapid growth and market impact," Nagata said. "In technical output, governance constructs and business models, LiMo lives out its belief that openness is key to unlocking innovation to the benefit of the whole industry and mobile consumers everywhere."