Verizon Talks the Openness Talk, Doesn’t Walk the Openness Walk

verizonlogoVerizon (s vz) Wireless, nearly two years after saying it would offer its network to “any apps, any device,” is moving toward openness with all the haste of a 12-year-old headed to the dentist. The company said today it’s certified fewer than five dozen devices for its 3G network, most of which are “specialized M2M units” — in other words, not the kind of thing you’re going to pick up at Best Buy (s bby). The carrier also announced the imminent launch of Vcast Apps, an initiative designed to allow developers to distribute their wares to Verizon’s customers.
While the talk of openness makes for good public relations, of course, and helps satisfy the requirements set forth by the FCC when Verizon won a chunk of 700 MHz spectrum at auction last year. But today’s press release makes Verizon’s priorities clear: It’s the network, stupid.

“The winners in the 4G world will be those companies that first, focus on their core competencies, and second, facilitate and embrace collaboration and partnering,” Verizon Wireless SVP said during his keynote speech at the 2009 PCIA Wireless Infrastructure Show in Nasvhille, Tenn. “We can build all the bells and whistles and make lots of bold claims, but none of it will matter if the network — and all of the underlying infrastructure that supports the network — isn’t fundamentally reliable.”

That’s true, of course. But just as Verizon should be praised for its rock-solid network, criticism that it refuses to play nice with others in the space is also valid. The carrier has decided not to install (GigaOM Pro, subscription required) RIM’s (s rimm) BlackBerry App World or Microsoft’s (s msft) Windows Mobile Marketplace on its phones, opting instead to deploy it own app store and forcing consumers to download the platform. And Verizon is only now beginning to embrace Wi-Fi after watching competing carriers leverage the technology to ease network congestion and fuel uptake.
Verizon is right to crow about its network, particularly when AT&T (s t) has had such difficulty delivering data to iPhone users. But when it comes to opening its network, I’d like to hear a little less talk and see more action from the nation’s largest mobile carrier.