Verizon Wireless plans to support Kindle rivals

A customer departs a Verizon Wireless store in New York, November 21, 2008. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

LAS VEGAS (Reuters) Verizon Wireless is poised to have rivals of Amazon’s popular electronic Kindle reader use its network to download material such as books and newspapers wirelessly, according to an executive for the wireless service provider.

Tony Lewis, who runs a program that helps third party vendors certify their products to work on Verizon’s network, said in an interview ahead of the Consumer Electronics Show that he does not see the U.S. recession and concerns about weak consumer spending stalling manufacturers’ plans to bring out even nonessential products such as e-readers.

“Competitors to the Kindle are out there and ready,” said Lewis, who declined to name the company’s e-reader partners. “In 2009 I’d expect them to come to the market.”

Verizon Wireless, owned by Verizon Communications and Vodafone Group Plc, started an Open Development program in 2008 after Web-search leader Google Inc complained that U.S. carriers were limiting consumer choice, as their networks tended to only support cellphones handpicked and sold directly by the carrier itself.

Now Verizon Wireless has certified 29 wireless devices that can run on its network but are sold by independent vendors. So far these are mostly business specific devices such as tracking devices and healthcare products.

Lewis said consumer electronics devices were taking longer to get to the certification stage because they tended to include multiple features and as a result were more complicated than single-purpose data devices such as trackers.

But he hopes this will start to change in 2009 as the company expects to start supporting independent handsets as well as e-readers. Lewis hopes that the company can attract new vendors by operating a booth at the annual gadget showcase, which starts in Las Vegas this week.

He said that brisk sales of Kindle - which costs $359 on where buyers are told they have to wait seven to nine weeks for their device to ship -- showed there were still consumers out there who were willing to spend on wireless devices even in a tough economy.

“I just don’t see us using the economy as an excuse to say there’s not growth here,” Lewis said. “Even in a down environment I believe there are consumer electronics providers that are ready to do business to get their products to market in 2009.”

Reporting by Sinead Carew; Editing by Tim Dobbyn