AT&T CEO Discusses Android

Chris Ziegler and Paul Miller of Engadget had a nice interview with Ralph de la Vega, CEO of AT&T Mobility, about AT&T and everything mobile. The entire interview was quite interesting but of most interest to us is a few questions de la Vega answered about Android:

delavega

Chris: Okay, and expanding on that a little bit, I heard you speak at CTIA last year and you mentioned that… you mentioned basically the same comments about Android at that time. You said that you thought that it was promising, you liked what you saw, but that was at a time when there were a lot of questions about why AT&T wasn’t in the OHA. I’m wondering if your thoughts, your opinions have changed since then. Has AT&T’s direction with Android changed at all?

Ralph: No, actually, I think that they have been somewhat validated in that… we like the Android as an operating system on its own, but we want to make sure that we have, and customers have the option, to put applications on that device that are not just Google applications, so when the G1 came out and T-Mobile launched it, it’s primarily a Google phone. And we want to give customers the choice of other applications on that device, not just the same Google applications.

Chris: So you’re basically waiting for Android to be de-branded, so to speak?

Ralph: Well, to be open. (Laughter.) Right? I mean, the whole idea behind Android is that it’s gonna be an open OS, and so I don’t wanna roll an open OS to market that has primarily Google apps on it, and I think that’s gonna happen. I mean, I see a lot of activity, I think it’s got a good future, and I think it makes a lot of sense that the OS is open-source, separate from Google apps that are also very good.

Chris: So you don’t have any concerns about the stability of the platform, or the commercial viability of it? We saw Vodafone make an announcement today. So you’re comfortable…

Ralph: Well, I am not 100 percent comfortable until our people kick the tires on it in the lab, and what worries me most is malware and security and privacy issues that can get into that phone. You know, T-Mobile has had a couple of issues as you know, and so it validated our concerns that we had up front that… I don’t mind having the open OS, but I want to make sure that when our customers use it, their security or their privacy is not going to be compromised. That they’re not going to be subject to attacks and malware.

Paul: Were you to… down the road, you’re confident that it’s malware-free, and its open, is it something that you guys would be interested in putting your own services in? Is that something that you…

Ralph: Sure, we’d be interested in that.

Don’t expect an AT&Tdroid to come out anytime soon but, at some point, I think it is inevitable. AT&T, like Verizon Wireless, is playing the safe card on this one but at some point the momentum of Android will pick up, some of the uncertainties will be addressed and Ralph & Co. will be singing a much more assertive tune about pursuing Android.

Anybody want to take a random shot-in-the-dark guess at when we’ll see the first AT&T Android Phone?

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  • David

    I’d suspect it won’t be this calendar year. They probably have an idea ready, but as they say it’ll be heavily customized for at&t products. Given they’re in bed with yahoo, i’m thinking they’ll either change the default services to yahoo or at least make that an option over gmail.

    Honestly, I’m fine with that. While i prefer google services, openness is a huge part of the platform and the more open the better. Google should support them in this. The more people use the internet in more places, the better google does, even if they use yahoo to get there in the first place.

  • Phil

    It sounds to me like they either have one coming and are just trying to keep it under wraps or they don’t like it but just don’t want to say they don’t like it.

    Either the guy has a poor understanding of open source or he is just blowing smoke. Android is the ONLY OS platform that allows you to completely replace any piece of software on the phone right down to the dialer. If he wants to see other software in the phone then he needs to get his engineers on it in their lab. Coming prepackaged with Google software has nothing to do with being open nor does it stop AT&T from taking it off or the end user if they wish to do so.

    If I were an AT&T customer wanting a Android phone I’d be about ready to move to T-Mobile about now. I know I left Verizon like it was nothing.

  • chris

    .. it’s primarily a Google phone. And we want to give customers the choice of other applications on that device, not just the same Google applications.

    I shook my head when I read this. Ralph is either blowing smoke or doesn’t understand Android.

  • http://www.froogloid.com Froogloid

    I’m sorry, but what the hell is he talking about? Waiting for non google apps to be released? That doesn’t make any sense. 99% of the apps on the G1 are non google apps and have been since day 1! It’s obvious these guys are still in love with their iphone. With new android devices on the way, 2009 is going to be an interesting year.

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  • Ryan

    ROFL!!!

    “we want to make sure that we have, and customers have the option, to put applications on that device that are not just Google applications”

    This coming from the EXCLUSIVE (a.k.a. CLOSED) network provider for the iPhone and the deny-anything-we-want iTunes APP STORE?!

    He’s a CEO?

  • Nate

    lol @ Ryan. Stole my points. Also, AT&T has a monopoly on the hi-speed internet access in my area(excluding the ridiculously overpriced satellite companies). I live in Newhall, CA and it is absolutely impossible to go with any company other than AT&T. Not only that, but they say only their cheapest(worst) connection is “available in my area”. A lot of choice they give me, huh?

  • Jonathan

    > Anybody want to take a random shot-in-the-dark guess
    > at when we’ll see the first AT&T Android Phone?

    After Apple goes bankrupt — e.g. never. I don’t think they will ever embrace Android. As Android, WebOS, Blackberry, etc expands into the middle and lower tiers of the market, Apple will get squeezed into just the high-end. AT&T will then cling to them as a sole refuge. I think the market association is already too strong. For most consumers who don’t follow the industry so closely: iPhone = AT&T — and that association is *very* valuable to AT&T. On the flip side, they need Google to continue to make the iPhone “cool” so they can’t out-and-out trash Google’s Android effort publically for fear of reprisal. Apple may have a lot of technology, but Google has all the *data* and, ultimately, that’s what the mobile web is about.

  • Catherine Goldwyn

    Tiers Shmiers. I have an iPhone and it does NOT move data successfully. This is a bottom line situation. You can have the most beautiful machine in the world but if it can’t give you the functionality, what use is it? And, Apple does not respond to questions on this very issue – it’s very problematic. From the way he’s framing his answers, clearly the AT&T guy knows this.

  • http://www.templeofandrex.com/ Andrex

    Eh, he’ll come around.

  • Mike

    This doesn’t make any sense. Apparently there was no trouble with the iPhone and non-Apple applications. It’s open source… that means that one or more people had an itch, they scratched it, and then made the solution available to everyone else. The difference between open source development and commercial development is practicality. No one writes open source utilities to run on an emulator because they think it’s cool. They write it out of necessity. de la Vega displays the fact that he just doesn’t get it.

  • Paul

    Good lord. I guess this answers my question as to whether I’m sticking with AT&T, or moving to another carrier. I can’t believe this guys new found religion regarding a customers choice. Apparently that only counts though when the customer in question is using a device that AT&T will not sell you.

  • Enrique

    He can give every excuse in the book but the fact is, they cant afford to have the iPhone lose. They invested wayy too much to get into bed with Apple and now that they are they are against everything non-apple.

  • Shane

    I too have an iPhone.
    My bet for AT&T releasing an android phone? Um
    and never? Bottom line most everyone has hit it on the head.

    1. Steve jobs is the application nazzi. Sorry But true. I’ve seen several very handy applications get pulled although they utilized apples platform better than apples own apps did. Reason was duplication of existing functionality. Although apples function was not as slick. Do you think my account got refunded? Nope.

    2. AT&T = not coming off it. Their bed is made with apple. It’s sink or
    Swim time. It’s also time for apple to bring a little less bling and more bling. My mororola sliver had capabilities I realy miss over the iPhone. Mms. Bluetooth file transfers. And bluetooth that worked well with headsets.

    3. I’m an I t guy. I expect a lot from my smartphone. The iPhone has a ok web browser, no flash, and I’d throw it out the window if it wasn’t for the touch screen. As always apple suceeds with form over function.

    4. I dream of iPhone hardware and android os. :)

  • nova

    Android is the only reason I know De La Vega by name.
    His tone is barely any different then when I read something about this nearly a year ago as Chris Ziegler seems to note in his first question to the AT&T CEO.
    As an AT&T coustomer for the last 2 years, I’m quite glad I did not hold my breath for an AT&T Android phone. Since no one mentioned it, on this network you can unlock a G1 or get an Android Dev Phone 1 like I did.
    I really agree with Phil, chris, and others who said De La Vega does not seem to understand open source, or is blowing smoke. What apps is he waiting for? Yahoo to write a program to shove on top of gmail or maps or browser? If his boys in the lab weren’t instructed to just kick the tires for the last year, he would probably have those apps and AT&T interface or whatever he wanted worked into Android by now. I mean I was able to get AT&T MEdia Net working in an hour working with API codes (Hint: proxy server).
    However I don’t agree with Enrique and others who seem to think AT&T only sells apple smartphones. They also sell Microsoft Windows Mobile OS and R.I.M. Blackberry devices as well as Palm smartphones.
    I think this has more to do with Apple and their deal with AT&T than anything. Look at it like this. AT&T has had a deal going with Yaho for awhile now. I remember someone from AT&T (might have been De La Vega) basicly saying they were trying out Google services on the iPhone to promote coustomer choices of services. AT&T never said there were too many Google programs or not enough Apple programs in the App Store or anything like that?
    Why is it suddenly a problem on this platform that let’s developers or even carriers do whatever they want?
    Does anyone else smell that?
    And as for the question of when will we see Android on AT&T?
    When someone at the company wakes up to the fact they stifiling their much touted coustomer choice. Or in another year or so when the Apple contract is up and you start seeing iPhones on Verizion. Whichever comes last at this pace…
    In the meantime I’m enjoying Android 1.1 on AT&T right now, and the only thing I’m sorry for (besides not having the cooler carrier) is not finding this news article sooner!

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  • shawn_dude

    I’m amazed no one has focused on the primary issue AT&T has with Android — it’s open source.

    We will see Android on AT&T when either a) they figure out how to lock it down so tight it behaves like a proprietary OS (like Apple did with BSD), or b) they start to lose business to other carriers because of their lack of Android offerings.

    As a linux guy, Android means being able to run Google chat software instead of purchasing an SMS plan. It means playing any MP3 I like as a ringtone rather than purchasing (and repurchasing) music from AT&T. It means getting great applications for free rather than from a proprietary store. etc.

    AT&T doesn’t want to be the “guys that just supply the wireless connection”. If the only thing you need from AT&T to enjoy using your Google phone is a sim card, their profit model is hosed.

  • Daniel

    This guy is so full of it.

    Go ahead and say it! It will be a violation of your contract with apple over the stupid iphone.

    “I mean, the whole idea behind Android is that it’s gonna be an open OS, and so I don’t wanna roll an open OS to market that has primarily Google apps on it, and I think that’s gonna happen.”

    This guy sounds like Bill Clinton’s lawyer. If he feels this way about the android, he’s obviously misunderstood what android is. What a joke.

  • dEATHm3RCHANT

    AT&T’s IT and development departments are cursing this guy right now. CEO’s usually have very little knowledge about the technologies their company is using, its simply not that important to his job role. If you wanted to know how much profit AT&T achieved he would be your man, CEO’s worry about making the company profitable and that’s it!. You would really need to talk to the CIO in order to get a good understanding for what AT&T is doing with the Android platform. This guy is simply talking out of his ass and its obvious.

  • Plastik

    Just get a T-Mobile Android phone, unlock it and use it with your AT&T service. I have AT&T and an iPhone, but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that Android appears to be really awesome and I am secretly hoping AT&T will get with it, and get some Androids out there, without their own “AT&T” version. Let the manufacturer and developers do their own thing, and AT&T just help sell the device. Trust me AT&T, you want Android if you want more customers. Its beginning to bust open and you don’t wanna be last in line, do you?