Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Google taps another untested path to wireless

James B. Stewart called Google this generation's premiere company.

In its partnership unveiled Wednesday with Sprint Nextel Corp. on a next-generation wireless network, Google Inc. has tapped yet another route to ensure itself a prominent place in the mobile-Internet marketplace.

Although WiMax has demonstrated great promise, it is as yet a largely unproven technology nearing a crucial turning point. For Google, which will invest $500 million into the endeavor in exchange for a place as the "preferred" provider of search services, it's one in a series of strategic bets meant to land it on the cutting edge of wireless communications, albeit without having to slog through traditional channels.

Doing things differently.

Under one strategy to get there, Google has been developing its own mobile phone software infrastructure called Android, a considerable undertaking that has the already engineer-heavy company tapping outside developers and expertise.

In addition, earlier this year Google successfully gamed a federal spectrum auction by bidding up a nationwide license coveted by Verizon. The effort triggered so-called "open access" rules so that, while Verizon ultimately won control of the auctioned airwaves, it has been mandated to allow outside devices and applications to use it as well -- including those powered by Google.

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