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Verizon-only Bing app shows proprietary side of Android

iPhone is closed. Android is open.  United

That's the conventional wisdom about the dueling mobile operating systems. Apple's iPhone operating system runs only on Apple's iPhone (plus the iPad and iPod), and every app must be approved by the company before it appears on the App Store. Android, which Google gives away for free, runs on dozens of phones from many different carriers, and anyone can freely upload new apps to the Android Market without approval.

But that conventional wisdom is showing a few cracks, at least on the Android side. Take the flashy new Bing app for Android, announced today by Microsoft: It's not available to all Android phone users -- only the ones that use Verizon.

If you've got a T-Mobile, Sprint or AT&T Android device, you'll have to wait a while to Bing.

That's because Verizon and Microsoft are treating the Bing app as an exclusive service for Verizon customers -- a way to differentiate Verizon from its competitors.

That deal grew out of the established relationship between Microsoft and Verizon, specifically in the area of mobile search: A number of Verizon BlackBerrys run Bing as their default search engine and have for some time. 

But as more exclusive deals come into play and more apps become carrier-specific, Android's unified ecosystem will begin to splinter.  

And Verizon has not been afraid of getting exclusive. The company is already the sole provider for the National Football League's mobile app.

"It's a win-win," said Ken Muche, a spokesman for Verizon Wireless. "The partner has an opportunity to reach millions of fans, and it's free, so there's an obvious win for the customer."

The app developers are actually the ones who get to decide whether to make their apps carrier-specific. Any Android developer can turn on a filter that will limit downloads of their app to consumers on a certain carrier. 

Most Android developers choose not to use these filters, preferring to open up their apps to as many users as possible. But deals like the one between Verizon and Microsoft show why some app makers may want to go the exclusive route.

-- David Sarno  

Image credit: Microsoft's Bing website

 
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