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Verizon edges closer toward open network

Company says it has certified the first device for its new open network initiative, but offers no details about the new handset.

Verizon Wireless has certified the first device that will operate on its Open Development network, the company said Friday during a conference call to update developers participating in the program.

Anthony Lewis, vice president for open development at Verizon, said that at least one device developer has completed the certification process that was first launched in March. The device that has been certified was already in the works when Verizon made details of the Open Development Initiative public just a few months ago.

Lewis said he was unable to provide details about the new handset. He wouldn't even name its manufacturer. He also didn't give a time frame for when the device will be commercially available on the open network. Still, he wanted to show the developer community that progress is being made.

"I want you to know the process works," he said during the conference call. "We believe the time is right to have this open development program. And I'm happy about some of the devices I've already seen."

Lewis also emphasized the importance of partnerships and collaboration in the process.

"We are here for you," he told the developers. "We're listening to you, and we are working to find the most effective way for you to bring your products and services to the network and out to the general population."

Verizon first announced plans for an open development network in November with the hope that it would make it easier and less expensive for third-party developers to bring new devices and applications to its network. Ultimately, Verizon hopes its open network will help spur innovation and provide a testing ground for new devices, applications, and services.

The new certification process is much more streamlined than the process companies must go through if they want to sell a Verizon-branded phone. Verizon is trying to make the new process as easy and open as possible. The company recently updated its Web page with a link that will allow those seeking product certification to track their device's progress from the initial stages all the way through to final certification and testing.

Developers urged to work directly with device makers
Since the device specifications for the open development network were released a few months ago, application developers have been clamoring for more information about how to get their applications on these new devices. Lewis said that Verizon is working with device makers first to lay the foundation for the open network. And he said the developers should work directly with device makers to develop applications.

"We are leaving the door wide open for applications," he said. "We are not going to evaluate applications on ODI (Open Development Initiative) devices. Any certification for applications we will leave up to device manufacturers."

He added that developers are free to use any operating system they choose on their devices whether its Google's Android, the open Linux platform Limo, or Microsoft's Windows Mobile.

Even though Verizon won't be taking an active role in certifying applications, the company will help bring application developers together with device makers. And Lewis encouraged application developers to join the Open Development Initiative and to contact Verizon to help initiate and facilitate conversations with device makers.

Lewis also confirmed that devices running on the ODI network will not be sold with contracts. This means that Verizon will not be subsidizing the cost of the devices. But it also means that Verizon will not charge those controversial early termination fees when customers ditch its service. Exact pricing details or ODI service plans haven't been made public yet. Lewis said Verizon is still working out the details, but it's likely the company could offer "pay as you go" and month-to-month service.

"We want to make sure the plans are simple," he said.