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I carry around an iPhone and a Blackberry Tour. I know that’s ridiculous. The iPhone is a great device on an awful network; the Tour is an awful device on a great network. If the rumours are true and the Verizon “Droid” is a great device on a great network, I’ll be the first in line to get one. But for the wireless ecosystem as a whole, it would be a bad thing.Some people are saying a great Droid would mean more competition amongst handsets. But you can’t really choose a handset – you choose a handset-carrier pair. The real innovation inhibitor in the cellular world has been the power of the carriers to dictate what devices you can use and what apps go on those devices. Just ask an entrepreneur who tried to create handsets or cellular apps. They are completely beholden to the whims of the carriers.
Apple (AAPL) has gotten very close to breaking the carrier stranglehold – just look at how many people put up with AT&T’s (T) atrocious network to have one. Had Verizon (VZW) capitulated and accepted Apple’s presumably stringent terms in order to carry the iPhone, we might have finally started to see a true decoupling of handsets from carriers.
Finally, don’t think just because the Droid runs Android it’s going to be truly open. Verizon knows a truly open OS – one that allows you to run Google Voice, Skype, 3rd party SMS apps – would make their network a dumb pipe. They’ve shown in the past they won’t let that happen.
Chris Dixon is Cofounder of Hunch. He’s also an investor in early-stage technology companies, including Skype (acquired by eBay), Postini (acquired by Google), Flarion (acquired by Qualcomm), Gracenote (acquired by Sony), P.A. Semi (acquired by Apple), Celtel (IPO), BladeLogic (acquired by BMC), TrialPay, Gerson Lehrman Group, ScanScout, OMGPOP, BillShrink, Oddcast, Panjiva, Knewton, and a handful of other startups that are still in stealth mode.