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Vodafone CEO disses Android, Self

Arun Sarin, the CEO of Vodafone (part owner of Verizon), provided an interesting interview for Business Week discussing the use of 4G networks. What WE were most interested in, however, was his not-so-nice comments about Android that seemed a bit self-deprecating.

When asked about Vodafone allowing cell phones based on Google’s Android, here is what Sarin had to say:

“I don’t know how open Android is really. I’d love to see how open it is before Vodafone would commit to using Android. We want to know whether the back end is all Google. Open means the ability to go anywhere you want to go. It’s not obvious to me that it’s really open. It’s open for Google. It’s not open for the rest of the world. When you get into the mobile Internet you have to invite others to do cool things.”

Ouch. Apparently Mr. Sarin didn’t read about the discussions between AT&T and Android at CTIA. AT&T Mobility CEO Ralph De La Vega had the same concerns, “One of the things we were looking for was that it was truly open and that you could put other features and applications on it.” But, De La Vega was much more optimistic about the platform itself saying he was, “encouraged by the idea that an Android phone could host AT&T branded apps.”

The most unnerving part of the Sarin passage is the last sentence. Read it again. In bold.

“When you get into the mobile Internet you have to invite others to do cool things.”

Isn’t Vodafone’s primary hesitancy the fact that they want to “block out” other companies from “doing cool things” and inherently monetizing their customer base? Hasn’t Verizon/Vodafone, in the past, been notorious for proliferation of walled-garden mobile content?

From a pure business standpoint the concerns of Sarin are real and justified. But to take somewhat of a swipe at Google for doing exactly what his company has done for a decade seems like misplaced anxiety. By the way… it’s not like Vodafone has been banned from joining the Open Handset Alliance where they could work WITH Google to determine their own fate in regards to Android.

Perhaps his anxiety isn’t misplaced. Afterall, Android is poised to make a huge impact on the mobile market. And unfortunately for the major mobile carriers, they could have prevented the Google invasion had they done what customers wanted all along and opened up their platforms years ago. Now, backed into a corner, they’re searching for a way to open up a bit more without also opening up the floodgates to a competitive platform Android.

Maybe you should Google it. Pun intended.




  • John Burns

    But the phone CEOs have a point: Android is not open source. It is released under a restrictive, proprietary license, just like those of Apple and other phone vendors and carriers. Google has promised to release Android as full open source, but so far they have not.

  • Scott

    As of October of 2008 that statement is wrong… it has been turned over just as it was promised.

    Most of the OS is from other opensource projects that linux gurus will be familar with.