AT&T, Verizon…We Are All Open

Ever since Verizon announced that it was going “open,” OPEN has become the new buzzword. For instance, this morning USA Today ran a story on AT&T being open, with extensive commentary from AT&T Wireless CEO & President Ralph de la Vega. The headline, “AT&T flings cellphone network wide open,” made it seem that AT&T was doing something new.

It isn’t a pretty sight to get up in the morning and find such a major development on your beat and not know a thing about it. But after reading through the piece, it was much ado about nothing. After all even today, once your contract expires, you can continue to use the AT&T network on a month-to-month basis. You can use any unlocked device which you can buy from anywhere, as long as it’s a GSM device and supports the frequencies used by AT&T. The phone can use any operating system — Windows Mobile, Symbian, Linux or whatever.

When I spoke with de la Vega following the Google Android announcement , he made precisely the same statements and said that AT&T (T) was already doing what Verizon (VZ) was announcing. He said pretty much the same thing in an interview with Ryan Block of Engadget a few weeks ago. I think the most recent story overstates the case. Just to make sure that I wasn’t missing something, I spoke to an AT&T spokesperson, and basically was told what de la Vega had said previously.

I think the bigger issue here is that we really need to get companies to define what they mean by OPEN. Open handsets, open networks, open applications, open operating systems — some combination of those, or all of them? Otherwise, I might have to start translating OPEN to “We’re Scared of Google.”