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Verizon bets big at the CRAPPS table



Matt Miller caught my attention today with the headline “Have US wireless carriers gone mad? Samsung Fascinate crippled by Verizon“! He’s displeased with the mobile crapware or CRAPPS on this thing. Unfortunately, there’s likely more madness to follow.

Matt takes issue with the fact that Verizon swapped out Google Search and Google Maps with Bing and Verizon Navigator, respectively, with no easy way to switch them back or to something else. In addition, access to the Android Market and app sideloading have been limited. I’m sure nothing stops a geek from rooting the device and switching whatever they want, but for the average user, these options are locked in and that, no matter the quality of the software, drops them into my definition of CRAPPS*.

But that’s just one phone, right? Verizon hadn’t done this with the DROID line, so it’s an isolated incident. Well, don’t be too sure about that. A couple of events indicate this is just the beginning.

First, one thing you may not realize is Verizon and Microsoft signed a five-year deal to make Bing the exclusive search and advertising provider for Verizon Wireless. Emphasis on “Exclusive.” BlackBerry users have already seen this happen. At the time, it was believed Android handsets were exempt, but the Samsung Fascinate demonstrates that belief was a false one.

So why didn’t Android phones already get the same treatment as BlackBerrys? Because the software wasn’t ready. But it is now. Last week, Microsoft announced Bing for Mobile, the official Bing app for Verizon Wireless Android phones. There was no business reason why Verizon’s Android phones didn’t get the Bing treatment; it was a matter of software.

So maybe you’re thinking Android phones weren’t exempt, but possibly the DROID line is. Why would you think that? Microsoft is rumored to have paid $500M for this five-year exclusive deal. If they allowed Verizon’s flagship smartphone line to be exempt, they should fire the guy who brokered that deal. Furthermore, on their website, Verizon Wireless claims: “Bing will be the search for the native browser on most devices.” The way they churn out new DROID models, they can’t both exempt DROID and make Bing the search engine on most of their web-capable devices. Either Bing will replace Google on new DROID phones going forward (and maybe even retroactively via an OS update), or Microsoft dropped half a billion dollars on a really bad deal.

Unfortunately, while locking down an open Android device in this way may strike some as madness, it’s actually a return to normalcy. Remember, the way AT&T kept their hands off the iPhone (Apple worries about the device; AT&T worries about the network) was a novel idea when it was introduced. It looked like Android phones would be treated the same way, but I don’t recall Verizon ever agreeing to that. (The Open Handset Alliance is all about openness on the production side, not the consumer side.) Even if they did, DROID is their brand. HTC, Motorola, and Google don’t control the devices; Verizon does. They are essentially both Apple and AT&T in this analogy.

Android being a free, open source operating system does not matter either. It’s free as in “free beer” not “free as in freedom” and being open source does not mean it can’t be locked down. It’s open for vendors to do with as they please. The OHA makes no promise of openness for consumers. Also, iOS is built on open source Darwin.  Clearly open source does not guarantee consumer openness.

What this all boils down to is that the “mad crippling” of the Samsung Fascinate is not an anomaly. It is what was normal before the iPhone came along. Many of us seem to have forgotten that. There was a period of adjustment as carriers reacted to the iPhone, but that period is over. DROID is a strong brand, better recognized than Android. That gives them the leverage to dump Google Maps for their own $10/month Navigator and Google Search for the more profitable Bing.  That’s not madness; it’s a move back to (profitable) business as usual.

*Let me re-emphasize, I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with Bing as a search engine. This is not an attack on the service or the software. In fact, I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how well Microsoft is marketing the service. The overall effort and strategy has really impressed me. (That they’re poised to displace Google as the search engine on DROID, taking revenue that Google assumed was theirs, is deliciously cunning.) It is strictly Verizon’s lock-in approach that qualifies the app as a CRAPP. That’s regardless of any positive qualities.



  1. GoodThings2Life

    09/08/2010 at 5:05 pm

    I take as much offense with the way ALL CARRIERS insist on acting like PC makers and installing crap on their phones. I don’t want NFL, NASCAR, SprintTV, etc etc at all. If I did, I would go to the marketplace and download them.

    What really angers me is the inability to remove them without hacking the phone. I shouldn’t have to root my phone and dig around in command shells to remove things that I don’t want from a device I’m paying to use.

  2. aftermath

    09/08/2010 at 5:54 pm

    I know this is about “crappy apps” (all “apps” are crappy), but you sort of shined a light on something that should have been highlighted.

    ‘Android being a free, open source operating system does not matter either. It’s free as in “free beer” not “free as in freedom” and being open source does not mean it can’t be locked down. It’s open for vendors to do with as they please.’

    Ding ding ding. Thank you for pointing this out, Sumocat. Most people miss the boat on this, and it’s important to look at it.

    Business makes money. That’s its purpose, and it’s not a bad thing. What is bad is to forget that its true. In particularly, a publicly traded company has to answer to its shareholders, not its customers. You don’t matter, but your money does.

    Some will remember the now “infamous” Wall Street journal article covering Bill Gates and Steve Jobs in which Steve revealed Apple’s big secret: “The big secret about Apple, of course, is that Apple views itself as a software company…. But Apple’s fundamentally a software company, and there’s not a lot of us left and Microsoft’s one of them.” That floored a lot of people, but it shouldn’t have. I guess if you’re like me, and you grew up with Apple coming on to the scene as one of the first providers of computer hardware, then it can be tough to see the change.

    Today is a world in which the ODMs, like Quanta and Foxconn, actually design and manufacture the hardware, and the OEMs, like Dell and Apple brand, market, and sell it. Apple uses its software to sell its hardware. That’s their business model. Apple doesn’t really make money off of licensing its software per se. It’s just part of the package. The software is a value added service on top of the hardware that they sell, and that “value added” is how they make their money. This is part of the reason that Apple doesn’t license its operating systems to third parties. That’s not their business model. They’re not trying to make money off of their software. They create software to make money off of the hardware that their partners create.

    Obviously, Microsoft has a much different business model. They create and license software. They’re not that involved in hardware compared to Apple. Their model is very straightforward. It generates an enormous amount of opportunities for third parties, Dell and Acer, to generate money. It makes tons of money for Microsoft. It forces Microsoft to be somewhat “open” because it has to work with a lot of different hardware and software types.

    Google is interesting in contrast to the other two. Android is “free”, but it’s not because Google is awesome and loves you. Google wants to control your Internet experience from beginning to end. It’s the most insidious of all. They don’t just want to be your search engine.
    They want to be your email provider. They want to manage your bookmarks, and contacts, and calendar, and RSS feeds. They want to be your browser. They want to be your operating system. Of course they’ll “give away” their operating system to you. They want to host your videos and images. Android is making sure that you’re fast-tracked directly into their experiences and services. Google didn’t exactly go broke being the premiere information aggregator on the Internet, and software like Chrome and Android just facilitate the harvest. They want to own every part of your online life. While it wasn’t originally my idea, I’ve likened this to allowing one company to be the manufacturer of all of the food that you eat. Why would you want one company to have that much control over your diet? Why would you want to trust one company that much? The upside just doesn’t matter. You have to look at the downside, the potential downside, and protect yourself. I don’t care how much I trust you. I will not allow you to insert a loaded gun in my mouth because I can see how that can go wrong, and there’s nothing in life that I need to badly that I need to accept the tradeoff and take on that risk. Why would you want one company to have that much control over your Internet life? This is a fluid industry, and even if it doesn’t actually burn you right now, you’ll be encouraging the industry to change in ways that will precipitate changes that will hurt you that you can’t do anything about.

    And speaking of the telecos, it seems pretty stupid to give up your PC from which you have local control of all storage, all applications, and all services, for a “connected” or “cloud” device. All you’re doing is giving up what you already have in order to become dependent on these idiotic carriers to get access to things that used to sit in your lap. Imagine if somebody took everything from your house and forced you to pay a small fee to access every knife, fork, shirt, chair, or pan. Many people are voluntarily giving all of this away to Google and paying companies like Verizon to get their stuff back in short bursts. I’m not going to pretend like people know what they’re doing or are trying to make sense, but it’s hard to listen to any of these people whine about CRAPPS. When you hand your world over to Verizon, you get what you get.

    • Roberto

      09/08/2010 at 7:43 pm

      You know I would pretty much agree with all of this although your comments about Google could apply to Apple or even Amazon with its Kindle in that they sort of have these closed systems that lets very little outside into their systems. I as a consumer just try to be aware of what these companies do when I make my choice and adjust accordingly. Really it’s the only thing I can do. Vote with my wallet.

    • Sumocat

      09/09/2010 at 7:57 am

      “That floored a lot of people, but it shouldn’t have.” — The ironic part is those people are likely the ones constantly comparing Apple to Microsoft, a software company. Apple makes their money selling hardware, but their software is what sells the hardware.

  3. Warner Crocker

    09/08/2010 at 6:51 pm

    As long as our world here in the US is run by the carriers this will happen. I think I read somewhere today that whatever version of the new Samsung phone that is going to AT&T (it will eventually be on all carriers) won’t have the front facing camera. Too data heavy for AT&T’s fragile and failing network, I would imagine.

  4. Timus, Powder Springs, GA

    09/09/2010 at 8:24 am

    Anytime I open something and see Bing as the default i use something else. PERIOD!!! How can I “Rule the Air” when you are all up in my coolaid!!!

  5. grwisher

    09/09/2010 at 9:22 am

    As William Benedix, in “The Life of Riley” said many times:
    “What a revoltin’ development this is!”

  6. cassetti

    09/09/2010 at 1:30 pm

    I have always been amazed at the amount of crapware that verizon installs on ALL of its phones! For years I simply laughed at anyone who said they had verizon thinking of how limited their phones were. While I on AT&T/Cingular have enjoyed the freedom to choose any phone i wanted, and run any applications compatible with that device. Heck, I remember seeing Verizon disable bluetooth file transfers on media flip-phones from several years ago!

  7. gfunk

    09/16/2010 at 1:53 pm

    The thing I don’t understand is, how hard is it to download Google maps, and set ur default webpage to Google? Widgets are great but you literally have to hit the screen one more time if you go to the browser and then start ur search. Big deal. But its enough to have have a whole debate about it. It actually wastes more time for people to write and read the article, than it does to tap your screen ine more time. But hey people need jobs.

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