updated 09:50 am EST, Mon November 19, 2007
ATT Considers Google OHA
AT&T is considering joining Google's new Open Handset Alliance, the company's wireless chief Ralph de la Vega has revealed on Sunday. The executive notes that his firm is "analyzing the situation" and may well ship phones incorporating the Linux-based Android operating system for its network. No mention was made of when this membership would be likely or which devices were candidates, though Android phones are expected to ship in the second half of 2008.
The move would allow the future device to run any software rather than code signed only by the carrier, which is frequently the case for most cellphone carriers. This revelation also represents the latest in a steady shift in policy away from locking down software on most of a network's phones. Smaller carriers such as Sprint and T-Mobile USA were some of the first to join the Open Handset Alliance but are often believed to have done so to separate themselves from larger incumbents AT&T and Verizon, which so far have insisted on controlling the software allowed on their phones.
If approved, the use of Android may have an impact on the iPhone and other smartphone-class devices available with AT&T. It and other carriers are frequently known to discourage VoIP software and similar code when it promises to avoid paid services but will not have that discretion with Android devices, placing pressure on AT&T to loosen restrictions with its other devices.