Verizon Says LiMo Platform Will Be Preferred OS, Doesn’t Rule Out Android

Earlier this morning, Verizon Wireless announced that it has joined the LiMo Foundation, and that it has taken a seat on the board of directors. LiMo was created in 2007 by Motorola, NEC, NTT DoCoMo, Panasonic Mobile Communications, Samsung Electronics, and Vodafone with the goal of creating an open mobile Linux platform for mobile consumer electronics. In late November, Verizon Wireless announced that its network would be open to qualified handsets and other consumer electronics that met its standards. Then in March of this year, the FCC revealed that Verizon Wireless had won the coveted C-block of the 700MHz spectrum, which by law, is required to remain an open network. Given the tensions between Verizon Wireless and Google, it doesn’t shock us that the carrier has chosen LiMo, first, over Google’s Android platform in its quest for openness. Here are the highlights from today’s press conference.

  • LiMo will become the preferred OS for Verizon Wireless’ handsets, starting with lower end feature phones and scaling up to smart phones later.
  • The first LiMo-based devices will take “many months” to develop, and they will debut in 2009.
  • Verizon Wireless will be dedicating resources to this initiative above and beyond what the carrier already does for OSes like Brew, Windows Mobile, and BlackBerry, and during the call it was explained that this would require that Verizon hire more talent that has an expertise in open-source software (which is a good sign).
  • Android isn’t off the table by any stretch, but it seems that at least for the immediate future LiMo will be the platform of choice for devices Verizon Wireless itself rolls out, while Android will be more of a back door offering through the carrier’s separate Any Apps, Any Device initiative. Although that could change if there’s enough demand.

Here’s what Kyle Malady, vice president of network for Verizon Wireless, had to say about Android. “If you look at LiMo’s membership, it consists of diverse set of experts from the carrier community, to developers, to handset manufacturers. LiMo is already in the marketplace with commercial products, and it’s already building on a platform and extending it. If [Google Android] handsets show up, we’ll look at those as well,” he said. “We are not adopting the Linux operating system to exclusion of other operating systems,” Malady said, while explaining that LiMo will be Verizon Wireless’ “preferred operating system.” When you walk into a Verizon Wireless store today, most of the devices have the same, if not similar, user interfaces on them, and LiMo may not change that. “If you have alternate looks and feels, then it’s harder to help the customers,” Malady commented in a response to a question about UI from LAPTOP’s editor-in-chief Mark Spoonauer. “We like the idea of a unified experience, but we understand you need to make that experience flashy, easy to use, and give developers the ability to bring innovations to market. The work there will continue regardless of OS,” he said. LiMo works as a middleware operating system, which means handset manufacturers and operators will have the ability to customize the UI to their liking. When pressed again on Android, Malady was careful not to rule out Android devices in the future, stating, “If [Android] devices come along that are interesting to us and our customers that we’d absolutely look at [Android.] The answer is yes to both.” Malady explained that LiMo devices will not be a requirement and that Verizon Wireless wouldn’t be telling manufacturers like RIM that it would need to run Linux. “We’ve talked to our partners. They know what’s going on. Everybody is supportive.”

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