It was announced early yesterday that Verizon Wireless plans to open its network to "any apps, any device" in 2008. All I can say is it's about damn time.
What this means is that any company (heck, even any individual with the means) can produce devices for direct-to-consumer sales, provided that said devices meet the technical standards to be set forth by the carrier. This of course is welcome news to many technophiles out there. Many of us have a bit of a love/hate relationship with VZW in that while we love the wide coverage area and solid network performance, we hate Verizon's history of removing/disabling features from phones as well as replacing elegant manufacturer-designed interfaces with their own God-awful UI.
Now with this announcement Verizon has pledged to work with anyone who chooses to purchase a compatible phone from a source other than directly from the wireless company. New Android-powered über handset out? No problem. Just ask Verizon to activate the phone for you. What I wonder though is how much this would cost. Right now, customers in many places (maybe the whole country) are subject to a $20 charge just for activating a phone on their existing phone number (a process which basically entails the Verizon rep keying in the ESN/MEID of the phone to be activated, a process which takes about 30 seconds in most cases). Would this charge (and only this charge) apply? Time will tell. Let's just hope Verizon makes good on what could really be some truly pro-consumer pledges.
Ideally this could usher in a new era of competition and innovation among handset makers, which should result in more choice for Joe Consumer. Of course the downside is that device prices could be substantially higher (Verizon subsidizes the prices of the handsets it sells). Again, time will tell. I believe it will be quite some time before we see any great selection of available "open" phones on the market. I will be watching and waiting with great interest.