Google, Nokia bet on muni-WiFi

Mark Twain said, "Find out where the people are going and get there first." This is precisely what Google and Nokia are doing. Today the two companies launch a version of Nokia's handheld Internet browsing device containing Google's Google Talk service, which allows for voice connections and instant messaging. It is an upgrade to a Nokia-first: Last year Nokia came out with its Nokia 770 Internet Tablet, the company's first mobile device which was not also a cellular phone.

Google's partnership with Nokia for this WiFi device is a bet on the trend of more communities installing wireless Web connections. The new device will cost about $390. It will rely on WiFi instead of cellular phone networks. Users will not be able to call regular phones. More than 300 municipalities--San Francisco, Philadelphia, Suffolk County in Long Island, New York City, the entire state of Connecticut--are making plans to offer the WiFi service free of charge. Google's move here is motivated by the same reason that prompted it to join with EarthLink to offer free WiFi service in San Francisco: It wants to add eye balls to its advertising. Free WiFi in a big city, and joining with the top-selling handset maker in the world, would achieve that goal.

Look for Google to launch additional ventures similar to its deals with EarthLink and Nokia. It could not have failed to notice that telecoms have more control over what services they offer their customers than traditional Internet companies do. For example, Cingular Wireless is getting its search and portal services for its MEdia Net from InfoSpace, bypassing major Internet companies such as Google and Yahoo.

For more on th Nokia-Google cooperation:
- see Carmen Fleetwood's CNNMoney report

PLUS: WiFi deals with EarthLink and Nokia notwithstanding, in last week's Press Day at the Googleplex, the WiFi network crashed just minutes before the day's events began. Most of the press gang were carrying laptops and had planned to blog/report back to headquarters throughout the day via Google's wireless network. Blog