By Martin Bosworth
It’s a very strange day in the technology world when Google can make a potentially big product announcement, yet ends up upstaged by an even more shocking development from Verizon. Yes, you read that right–Verizon’s upstaged Google on the Internets today. It must be Bizarro World Tuesday.
First came the announcement that Google’s much-heralded online storage service, GDrive, is lurching towards a launch. This isn’t really as big a deal as it may seem–as the Ars Technica article notes, Microsoft, Apple, and AOL already have online storage services–but Google will undoubtedly trump those offerings through sheer size and interconnectedness with other apps like Docs, Picasa, etc. For those who support the concept of the Internet as auxiliary brain, GDrive will no doubt be manna from heaven to those who want complete open access to their work from any platform.
Of course, putting the entire contents of your hard drive online using Google could mean that you’re essentially giving Google free license to use your work as it sees fit, but thanks in no small part to the efforts of people like my fellow scholarly rogue Brian, Google has clarified that it will not try to pwnz0r documents or files you upload to its services. Still, I don’t plan to use GDrive any time in the near future–I like my brain nice and offline, thanks muchly.
Even more interesting is Verizon Wireless’ announcement that starting in 2008, it will open its wireless network to all devices and software that meet its technical standards. Given that Verizon has staunchly favored the “walled garden” approach and has been a devout foe of net neutrality and wireless interoperability, this is a road-to-Damascus moment that puts even Mark Halperin’s mea culpa to shame (so to speak).
The big unknown here is the “technical standards” Verizon will be putting forth. How open will those standards truly be? What kind of hitches and “gotchas” will be in there? It’s definitely going to require a fine-tooth comb to go over Verizon’s proposals and make sure they’re being truthful–after all, this is the company that claimed it offered “unlimited wireless broadband” that was anything but unlimited.
Still, this is a huge step forward and a big gauntlet toss at the other carriers. Will AT&T finally unlock the iPhone in response? Will phones be made that can work on both GSM and CDMA carriers? These are all questions that can be legitimately asked now, and will be demanding answers–that’s how big this move is.
It’s truly a strange day when one of the hoariest of the old communication titans upstages the new king of the hill, and I can’t wait to see what happens next.