Verizon: You Can Thank Us for Android's Success

Everybody knows that Al Gore gave us the Internet, but did you know that Verizon Wireless is the reason for the success of Google's Android mobile OS?

Everybody knows that Al Gore gave us the Internet, but did you know that Verizon Wireless is the reason for the success of Google's Android mobile OS?

Verizon Wireless SVP Tony Malone does. "Android is a wonderful operating system, but Android really took off when Verizon got behind it," the exec said on a conference call with journalists this morning announcing that Verizon was launching its 4G LTE service in 39 markets on Sunday. He may have had a touch of 4G fever.

But assuming he didn't, let's have a quick look at his statement.

First of all, Android is used on all kinds of devices (not just phones) worldwide (in many markets where Verizon doesn't do business) Worldwide, Android is now the OS on 25 percent of handsets sold. And that's after only just more than two years of existence. Verizon can hardly take credit for Android's worldwide success.

Looking at the U.S. only, I have no doubt that Verizon sells more Android phones than anyone else.

According to the research firm NPD, Android phones sell more than any other phone in the U.S. today: One in three smartphones sold are Android phones-more than Apple and more than RIM/Blackberry.

Verizon sells three of the five biggest selling Android phones in the U.S. today: the Motorola Droid, the HTC Droid Incredible and the HTC Droid Eris. Sprint's EVO 4G and HTC Hero also make the top five.

Also, given the fact that Verizon sells more smartphones full-stop (33 percent) than any other US carrier, it's not too surprising that it would sell the most Android phones.

Verizon has clearly made a big bet on Android. But it's quite a stretch for Verizon to take credit for Android's success.

It's kind of like saying that AT&T is responsible for the success of the iPhone. Sure AT&T has sold more iPhones in the U.S.-- because of its sweet exclusive deal with Apple-but in real life, it's Apple that can take credit for the success of AT&T's wireless business.

Verizon's relationship with Android is not so one-sided, but it's silly to say that Verizon made Android what it is today. Verizon wisely saw the attractiveness and growth potential of Android-and not even very early on (T-Mobile was the first US carrier to embrace Android, with its G1 and MyTouch phones)-and wisely decided to begin pushing the devices.

For Verizon, Android phones were the only available counterpunch to AT&T's iPhone, as a device that would get people on its network and using gobs of wireless data. Wireless data is the future for Verizon, and is already its highest margin business. Voice service, meanwhile, is a dying line item.

From where I sit, Android is a far more interesting and innovative technology than anything Verizon makes, and I believe most people agree. People are fascinated by Android. They talk about it. When's the last time you heard Verizon's LTE network discussed at a party?

So for Malone to take credit for Android's success is kind of laughable. I wonder if Larry and Sergey heard him say that this morning.

I wonder if Al Gore did.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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