Verizon's has revealed how it plans to integrate the software side of next-generation cellphones into its business: It aims to support just four different operating systems.
The problem with the current cell phone model, according to CEO Lowell McAdam who was speaking at CTIA, is that Verizon has to support "literally, eight or nine different operating systems" on the many different phones it offers to its current customers. In the future the company wants to change that: "What we hope over the next few years is to land on about three to four." The intention apparently isn't to "shun" any particular OS, but instead to make it easier for Verizon to bring new apps to its clients.
And that plan is revealing. It's clear that the humble dumbphone is inexorably evolving into a smartphone—the iPhone, years of Windows Mobile devices, and new players like Android are ensuring as much. So what Verizon is really talking about supporting are future smartphone operating systems. And "three or four" points directly to the big players: Apple's OS X for sure, Windows Mobile, RIM's BlackberryOS, Google's Android, Symbian and Palm's WebOS.
Which of those six will be favored by Verizon is, of course, subject to future developments like the success or failure of the Palm Pre. But it's clear Verizon sees only some of the OSs as succeeding. This is important to Verizon for one main reason—it seems to be planning to take a more active role in developing applications for the smartphones it sells, probably as a way of 'adding value' for customers, and distinguishing itself in the carrier marketplace. There's even a conference on developing applications for the company's cellphones this summer.
Verizon has realized that the days of intrusive carrier-specific strangleholds over the software on cellphones is over—with highly sophisticated OS's it's much harder to stamp your brand on all the phone's functions—so the company is going to turn to apps instead. The era of carriers ruling the cellphone market may be slipping away. The next generation of phones will be controlled by OS developers instead.