Last week, Sprint's Vice President of Strategy Russ McGuire admitted that carriers might be an impediment to growth and innovation in the cell phone industry. Speaking at the MobileBeat conference in San Francisco, McGuire said that carriers need to "let go" and allow the industry to move at a natural pace.
"You don't want to move at carrier speed," he said. "You want to move at Valley speed."
But McGuire didn't stop there. He also went on to discuss one of the more hot-button issues in the industry today. Technologies like the iPhone and the Google Android OS are challenging the long-held concept of the carrier-driven "walled garden" and changing the very role carriers play in the industry.
"Will carriers become pipes or will they continue to be media companies?" he said. "They're realizing it's not the worst end game if they are disintermediated of their desire to become giant media companies and instead become the best wireless backbone."
McGuires's comments are indeed surprising given the way the U.S. cell phone industry has operated for so long, and he acknowledged that, saying change would be fundamental. I asked Sprint for further commens on McGuire's talk, but a spokesperson declined.
Like many of my colleagues, I've long advocated for a more open approach to wireless development in this country. Breaking down the walled garden to allow for more third-party applications. I believe customer customization will benefit the end user. And I don't think that's it's the end of world if carriers become conduits for information rather than controlling the cell phone experience from beginning to end. McGuire's comments give me hope that carriers are beginning to agree.