Verizon Wireless, whose horror of the potential of new technology to eat into its fat fees and service margins has made it an infamous drag on the technological development of the U.S. cell phone market, has announced it is opening a multivendor Innovation Center dedicated to advancing technology in the cell phone market!
The conceptual and architectural oxymoron is not, as one might suspect from the word "innovation," the result of a corporate decision to change policies that benefit it and hurt customers by, for example:
- singlehandedly forcing Congress and the FCC to let it keep its right to throttle, restrain or cut off wireless and wired internet customers at will;
- eliminate its unlimited-use plans in favor of data caps that would be adequate for normal phones but alarmingly small for smartphone users, just after beginning to sell iPhones and heavily promote the use of other smartphones on its network;
- resist expansion and greater flexibility among competing cell-phone networks, while making empty promises of "openness" designed to counter the dictatorial principles that led it and other cell carriers to be referred to as "Soviet ministries" by analysts and (sotto voce) analysts;
- restrict or deactivate important features in new phones so they won't strain its network or threaten a clunkier and more lucrative service of its own,
- or replace innovative technologies with last-gen versions of its own simply to retain its preferred branding.
No, the new Application Innovation Center that opens today in San Francisco today isn't dedicated to making up for the sins of Verizon Wireless' past.
In fact, it looks as if it is designed to let VW take even greater advantage of those sins at the expense of its customers, while appearing to offer them greater services.
Application Innovation Centers will eventually open in 20 cities will offer local development and promotional help to application developers interested in building apps that will run – under whatever adverse conditions – on Verizon's wireless network.
Except for apps built for the Apple iPhone that Verizon began selling in January, there are precious few apps available to take advantage of either the phones Verizon supports or the LTE 4G network it is still rolling out.
Developers visiting AIC for help will get (in addition to the requisite brainwashing and anonymous gray clothing of the Hollywood Big Brother-movie corporate drone) assistance in networking applications from Verizon networking experts, as well as "equipment and services not available elsewhere," according to Verizon's press release.
Those resources are unlikely to be greater than the usual cell-phone analysis gear, wireless spectrum analyzers, wireless sniffers and other tools common in any mobile-app development shop or Verizon Wireless service center.
Verizon will also offer help in multi-tier Web-services application development across its network, which is guaranteed to be tricky, especially for developers who have never coded for anything but LAN, Web or WLAN environments.
They'll also get tips on improving network performance (reducing the chattiness typical of multi-tier or client/server apps developed for any network on which each additional packet doesn't cost extra) and, most important to Verizon itself, business development.
Verizon offers no explanation of what it means by "business development." At any other company it would mean getting pointers on launching or running a small app dev shop. At Fortress Verizon I imagine it would have to mean being drawn into a closed back room so Verizon BizDev execs can work over the poor geeks until they sign contracts exploitive enough to compete with history's most Faustian bargains or the first professional contract for any beginning performer in the ethically pure industries of either music recording or professional boxing.
“The work of the Application Innovation Center is about encouraging and supporting developers who bring new ideas to the table and are creating exciting mobile applications for consumers and businesses,” the announcement quotes Verizon Wireless CEO Dan Mead as saying.
That translates, roughly, to: "We don't understand why so many more people want to write apps for iOS and Android that only run well, and for free, on other people's networks, but we want those apps to run on Verizon Wireless, too, as long as we can pick which features will work, tell customers which apps they like and charge for both making an app available and for keeping it off the network. Doesn't that sound great?"
Verizon: a company so well loved by both customers and employees that, when given the time and slightest excuse, the much-better-treated of those two groups turns out to be so angry at management that they sabotage the networks and facilities they spend the rest of the year working to maintain.
Lucky for them, the managers at Verizon Wireless are much more effective at exploiting customers than employees, so the real trouble may be restricted to the landline (parent company) part of the business.
Or maybe it could innovate itself out of trouble, maybe by shutting off some important new technologies or throttling bandwidth on its network even more than it already does.
Read more of Kevin Fogarty's CoreIT blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Kevin on Twitter at @KevinFogarty. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.