It's no surprise, really. Offline devices just don't carry the allure that they once did, and in fact, yours truly would argue that they simply lack the requisite functionality to become runaway hits in the modern era. It's genuinely difficult to think of a flagship consumer electronics product, with a display of any kind, being engineered in the year 2013 without at least some level of internet connectivity in mind. Even a Kickstarter dream dubbed Pebble would be borderline useless without an online link, and as consumer demands shift dramatically towards expecting more for less, it's the carriers who have found themselves positioned to take advantage.
Verizon has joined a host of other megacorps in launching so-called innovation centers across the world. Earlier this year, Samsung committed $1.1 billion to create a pair of Open Innovation Centers -- temporary homes for upstarts looking to woo Sammy's check writers into believing in their technology. In 2011, AT&T's Palo Alto, Calif.-based Foundry innovation center joined similar entities already running in Texas and Israel. In a nutshell, these facilities exist solely to ensure that pretty much everything with a circuit board also ships with an AT&T radio. Microsoft, Intel and Vodafone have all done likewise in the past three years.
I recently had the opportunity to visit Verizon's first Innovation Center -- a sprawling facility located squarely in Massachusetts' famed Route 128 technology corridor. The center opened in Waltham in the middle of 2011, and now enables roughly 25 employees to "largely operate outside" of what you probably associate with the word "Verizon." What I found was the world's greatest case against the existence of a "dumb pipe" -- a phrase often used to describe carriers that do little more than provide access to a network. No structured technical support, no humans on the other side, no bloatware on the devices they sell. Companies who show up looking for aid in the art of interconnectedness face no fees, no risk of surrendering intellectual property and no requirements of exclusivity. This is the future of the wireless carrier: an increasingly vital component in making tomorrow's whiz-bang gadget one that this generation will actually crave.