Carriers should customize Android phones, says Google Ventures exec


SAN FRANCISCO--Wireless carriers should spend more time and money creating unique and useful interfaces for their Android phones, according to Google Ventures General Partner Rich Miner.

Rich Miner, Google Ventures Chief

     Rich Miner

In comments here at the Open Mobile Summit conference, Miner said he is surprised that wireless carriers like Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) and AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) haven't done more to customize the look and feel of their Android phones. Since Android is an open platform, Miner said, wireless carriers are able to modify the platform in order to differentiate their phones from those of their competitors.

"There's a big opportunity that they seem to have left on the table," Miner said. "I'm a little curious as to why" carriers haven't done more to customize their Android phones.

Miner's comments on Android carry significant weight since Miner was the co-founder of Android along with Andy Rubin before Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) acquired the platform. Previously, Miner worked at European carrier Orange via Orange's acquisition of his company Wildfire. Today, Miner is the general partner of Google Ventures, Google's venture capital arm.

U.S. wireless carriers have made some efforts to play in the Android software space. For example, Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) in 2010 introduced its Sprint ID effort, which packages Android apps and other content from specific providers. T-Mobile USA offers a range of Android applications like its VoIP calling product Bobsled and the Lookout mobile security service. However, carriers have largely left major modifications to the look and feel of the platform to Google and Android handset makers such as Samsung, Google's Motorola Mobility and LG.

Miner said that wireless carriers should do more to innovate on Android in order to better serve their customers and highlight their phones above those from other carriers.

During his appearance here, Miner covered a wide range of topics in mobile. He said that Research In Motion's (NASDAQ:RIMM) dramatic decline in the wireless enterprise space has created an opening for other players, both large and small, to take share.

"There's no one saying, 'we really own that space,'" Miner said, arguing that IT workers are struggling to manage employee smartphones and mobile access to corporate information. "If you have solutions and they are good you can have your voice heard."

Miner said Google Ventures has invested in a handful of companies that are working to break open the mobile enterprise opportunity left by RIM's troubles. Specifically, Google Ventures joined Comcast Ventures and Qualcomm in an $11 million financing round in mobile enterprise company Enterproid.

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