Verizon Wireless has announced that it will provide customers the option to use wireless devices, software and applications not offered by the Verizon, on their network. While this is good news I suppose, it isn't quite what I expected them to do. Verizon and Sprint have stuck to their "only our stuff" way of doing business for years, and Sprint recently announced that they would let other devices be used on their network, and that they'd unlock their devices if leaving customers wanted to use them elsewhere (i.e., Verizon Wireless). With the increasing penetration of GSM carriers in the US, and the wide array of GSM devices available, you'd think that Verizon would step out a little more.

So why my luke warm reception to this announcement? The first thing that turned me off about it was that Verizon is taking the position that they are an innovative industry leader with this announcement, when in fact they are really being dragged into this kicking and screaming. This option won't even be available until the end of 2008, and it will only be available after Verizon Wireless has tested the devices and approved them. Will they test and approve Sprint branded devices?

Here is the statement that makes you go "Hmmm"...

This new option goes beyond just a change in the design, delivery, purchase, and provisioning of wireless devices and applications.
“This is a transformation point in the 20-year history of mass market wireless devices – one which we believe will set the table for the next level of innovation and growth,” said Lowell McAdam, Verizon Wireless president and chief executive officer. “Verizon Wireless is not changing our successful retail model, but rather adding an additional retail option for customers looking for a different wireless experience.”

... What? This statement completely ignores the fact that most of the world, not just the US, has total portability of their devices by simply moving their GSM SIM card to a new phone. Ironically, Verizon just this week announced that the XV6800 (Mogul) is finally available this week, many months after its CDMA competitor Sprint-Nextel, and even further behind the GSM vendors that offered similar devices a year ago.

The announcement goes on to say...

Verizon Wireless has a track record of listening to customers and transforming entrenched industry practices based on those customer needs. The company parted with the industry last year when it introduced pro-rated early termination fees, and in 2004 when it refused to participate in a wireless directory when customers said they didn’t want one. Verizon Wireless also broke with “wireless tradition” when it supported local number portability because customers wanted the freedom to take their number if they switched service providers. Such responsiveness to customers has earned Verizon Wireless the strongest brand reputation in the industry.

I am certainly happy to see Verizon opening up a little bit, but I can't let them off the hook with the tone of their announcement on this one. I don't seen any market leadership on this at all.