AT&T jumps on board with Android

By , IDG News Service |  Mobile & Wireless

AT&T plans to sell phones based on Google's Android operating system, after
being assured by the search giant that it won't be forced to offer all-Google
applications, the operator's chief executive said on Wednesday.

AT&T was absent from the initial list of mobile service providers that
said they'd sell phones with Google's open source mobile operating system, but
the operator is changing its tune after a recent meeting with the search giant.

In February, AT&T Mobility President and CEO Ralph de la Vega met with
Google for an in-depth briefing on Android, he said, speaking during a press
lunch at the CTIA Wireless conference in Las Vegas. Google assured AT&T
that the operator would be able to customize Android phones to include any applications,
he said. "That's attractive to us. We were concerned that maybe the focus
was just on Google apps," de la Vega said.

"If it's good for customers we'll offer it like any other OS," he
said. "It is something we'd want in our portfolio."

When Android was launched in November, Sprint and T-Mobile said they'd use
it but AT&T and Verizon stayed mum. Shortly after the launch, Verizon announced
plans to open its network to any device, which means customers could be able
to use Android phones on its network at least in an unsupported fashion.

AT&T's delayed acceptance of Android points to some of the confusion that
operators seem to have about the forthcoming operating system, said Charles
Golvin, an analyst with Forrester Research. Many of them have been uncertain
about how much control they might have over the operating system.

AT&T's reason for changing course could also point to some potential problems
users might find with Android. If each of the operators customizes their own
Android phones, it is uncertain if applications will be able to run across all
the different phones. "It's unknown," said Golvin.

In addition to Android phones, de la Vega said that the much-anticipated 3G
iPhone will become available in the next few months. AT&T's entire line
of smartphones will be available in 3G models within that time frame, he said.

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