Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) is teaming up with Wi-Fi offload specialist Devicescape to power the Wi-Fi hotspot map that is part of Microsoft's Data Sense application, one of the new key features of Windows Phone 8. Data Sense is a suite of services intended to help users better manage their data usage and stay under their monthly data cap.
Devicescape is giving Microsoft access to its curated virtual network of 12 million hotspots, the first time it has partnered with a major smartphone platform provider. To get access to the Wi-Fi mapping solution, users can enter through the Data Sense app and go to the control panel and select Wi-Fi map; launch a service that just shows the hotspots; and use Bing search's Local Scout feature to find nearby hotspots or access the map through the phone's Wi-Fi settings.
The map of Wi-Fi hotspots represents Devicescape's curated list of free, public hotspots that have been vetted as strong, reliable and popular connections. Devicescape uses crowdsourced information from its users to get real-time data on the performance of hotspots.
Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) is so far the only U.S. carrier that will take advantage of Data Sense for its Windows Phones. Users on other networks with Windows Phone 8 devices will still be prompted if they want to connect to Wi-Fi when they are near hotspots, but they will not have access to Devicescape's curated network.
Data Sense is not only about finding Wi-Fi hotspots for offloading though. The solution compresses every webpage, which Microsoft said will give users 45 percent more Web browsing than they would get if they were on the same data plan on another smartphone platform. Data Sense can also adjust how a user's phone behaves to avoid going over a data cap. More importantly, the service shows how much data each app is using and will pop up with a notification when a user is close to going over their limit.
Devicescape has had deals with MetroPCS (NASDAQ:PCS), U.S. Cellular (NYSE:USM), Cincinnati Bell, MVNO Republic Wireless and Bouygues Telecom, but the company's deal with Microsoft is a major win. "We've never in the past had a distribution deal like this where our data was being validated and on a major platform," Devicescape CMO David Nowicki told FierceBroadbandWireless. "It's a major step forward for Microsoft to want to use this kind of data as opposed to something that hasn't been verified."
Nowicki declined to specify the business model for Devicescape as part of the Data Sense app, but he said the collaboration grew out of the company's long-standing relationship with Microsoft. "They were looking to differentiate their platform, [and] we have a well-differentiated solution, so it made sense to put those things together," he said.
Nowicki also said the app would likely lead to more carriers embracing Data Sense and Wi-Fi offloading more generally. "Carriers are doing this for a marketing experience," he said, arguing that allowing customers to have access to high-quality Wi-Fi hotspots improves the customer experience.
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