A few interesting snippets are emerging in the ‘friendly’ back and forth battle between Sprint and Google about Android phones Sprint hopes to ship shortly. Jake Orion, an Android product manager at Sprint Nextel, heavily critiqued Android in general and complained that the OS: “needs a more proactive and direct linkage to the carrier’s network and service requirements.”

My translation? “We need the control we are used to.”

Two issues are at stake: one strategic, one tactical:

The strategic issue is open networks, which carriers resist:

“Look, we spent billions to build out our network. We’re committed to driving innovation (that’s my job!), and working with partners to help deliver new services, but it is our network, and we have the right to control what goes on it and share in the value that other companies create.” (from my conversation with Jorg Heuer of T-Mobile)

…and Google loves:

And I’m a big fan of the recent 700MHz spectrum auction, where the FCC tethered open access requirements to the spectrum at the request of Google, and after Google committed to a minimum $4.6B bid. Now Google’s bid was clearly self-interested, they benefit tremendously from open networks, are threatened by closed networks, and seek to open them or guarantee their position in them wherever possible (see their AOL investment, Facebook bid, OpenSocial initiative, Clearwire investment, etc). But while self-interested, it also happens to be good and clearly in the interests of the consumer.

The tactical issues is location-awareness, which carriers like Verizon want to control:

Verizon has a history of this behavior, having crippled the Bluetooth functions on its cellphones, too. The carrier says it will restore the GPS function later this year, probably to sell us for-pay navigation services such as its own $10-a-month version. I’m stuck with this company-issued phone and am generally happy with Verizon as a carrier. But its smarmy approach has left a bad taste. As much as I’ll be tempted to use my phone for GPS, I’ll resist—if it means paying Verizon. (from U.S. News and World Report)…and Google is hungry to deliver:

“Hughes said that Google’s interest in mobile relates to its desire to get into location-based search. Because the wireless industry can move slowly, Google needed leverage, which is why it is developing Android (It took a similar approach in the spectrum auction.) “No one is talking about that, but the whole premise and business model behind Android is to be able to do location-aware search.” (In-stat report, summarized in MocoNews)


Bottom line: Let the games continue.

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