Google's open platform for mobile devices, known as Android, has received a further boost after Verizon Wireless and Sybase both announced they were backing the platform.

Android has been developed by Google and others as part of the Open Handset Alliance. The ambitious goal is to spur innovation in the mobile space. The open-source platform will comprise an operating system, middleware stack, customisable user interface and applications.

The first Android-based phones should hit the market in the second half of 2008. The platform will be made available under an open-source licence that will give a lot of flexibility to those who adopt it to modify its components.

Sybase's commitment to support Android is perhaps not so surprising then. It already targets a wide range of devices and platforms across its mobile middleware and mobile services offerings, supporting more than 230 Windows Mobile, Symbian, Palm, RIM and iPhone handheld devices, as well as Windows laptops and tablets.

"It is exciting to see that the emergence of platforms such as Android, combined with the backing of the companies in the Open Handset Alliance, including Google, are fuelling even more rapid innovation across the entire mobility industry, and will continue to blur the line between consumer and enterprise use," said Dr. Raj Nathan, Sybase's chief marketing officer.

But perhaps it is more surprising to see the sudden shift from Verizon Wireless, one of the largest US mobile operators, in its decision to support Android. Verizon Wireless had been one of several large US mobile carriers withholding support from the Android initiative.

Last month Verizon Wireless announced plans to allow a broader range of devices and services on its network, and CEO Lowell McAdam now believes it makes sense to get behind Android.

"We're planning on using Android," McAdam told BusinessWeek. "Android is an enabler of what we do."

When Google announced Android in early November, it was backed back by more than 30 members of the new Open Handset Alliance, including wireless operators Sprint Nextel and Deutsche Telekom-owned T-Mobile. But Verizon's name was conspicuously absent. A full list of members can be found here.

This was hardly surprising, as in the past Verizon Wireless has tightly restricted the devices and third party applications allowed to run on its network. But over the past year, the operator has undergone something of a radical shift and is now more open to external devices as a way to maintain growth whilst keeping down costs. It hopes to open its network to third-party devices by the end of 2008.