Just So We’re All On the Same Page About What “Open” Means

It’s still early in the year, but I think my prediction about “open” being the buzzword for 2008 is going to score me a point in our annual review. And, as I also predicted, a lot of it’s BS. First, you’ve got Sprint’s new transcoder, called “OpenWeb” (from OpenWave, natch). As Techype says, “A thoroughly open initiative all round, coincidentally utterly killing anyone apart from Sprint’s ability to host ringtones, wallpapers, Java games or anything else that requires device recognition”.

Then you’ve got Verizon announcing some details on its “open” Any App, Any Device program. Device developers will have to build their devices to some specs, then submit their products to the operator for testing and certification. These specs include not just adherence to CDMA standard, but additional “supplemental requirements” to “secure our network and our customers,” says the operator’s CTO.

So you could go to all this trouble, jump through Verizon’s hoops and pay to develop and create a device, then cross your fingers that they approve it and allow you to try and make a business.

Or, you could do what you’ve been able to do for quite some time, and just make a GSM/UMTS device, and pop a SIM in from one of Verizon’s US rivals like AT&T or T-Mobile — or any other GSM operator, for that matter. You won’t get an operator subsidy, but you won’t with your special Verizon CDMA device, either.

So just to keep track: for Sprint, “open” means viewing web pages only in the format they choose. For Verizon, “open” means only using devices they certify and approve. For me, neither of those really jive with my definition of open.

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