Though we live in a world where wireless and walled garden seem to go hand in hand, Sprint announced today that it will partner with open-access booster Google Inc. to create a mobile WiMAX portal for search, interactive communications, user-generated content and social networking.
The carrier also said it will provide open standard APIs for the Internet developer community to create customized, personalized and interactive services for customers.
Sprint has been saying for months that its WiMAX-based 4G service will be about taking the open Internet mobile rather than offer a content-limited experience with one of those difficult, graphics-deficient interfaces that have become synonymous with mobile Internet. Taking a step toward fulfilling that promise, Sprint said that its network bandwidth, location detection and presence capabilities will be matched with Googles communications suite, Google Apps, which combines the Gmail, Google Calendar and Google Talk services. Other WiMAX applications will include high speed Internet browsing, local and location-centric services, and multimedia services including music, video, TV and on-demand products.
Google and Sprint will optimize the Internet experience for the digital lifestyle, said Barry West, president of 4G Mobile Broadband for Sprint.
Key to all of this is a device revolution. AT&T Inc. and Apple Inc. may have fired the first shot across the form-factor bow with the iPhone, but innovation may come tumbling apace as new WiMAX embedded devices get to market. These will be not only laptops and handsets, but also an entire set of electronic devices such as personal media players, gaming devices, tablet PCs, cameras and other gadgets that will benefit from a high-speed Internet connection. Eventually, WiMAX service will be available in vehicles for navigation information, news and entertainment.
For Google, the relationship is another move to stake out territory in mobility. The search giant also recently told the FCC that it would commit to buying nationwide spectrum in the upcoming 700Mhz auction, provided open-access standards were part of the rules.
Google shares Sprints vision for enhancing the consumers mobile lifestyle and is focused on greater access to information through a variety of channels, said Dave Girouard, vice president and general manager Google Enterprise, in a statement.
Sprint plans to test its WiMAX service in the Chicago, Baltimore and Washington D.C. areas by the end of the year. Commercial service is expected to be available in a number of markets starting in April 2008, and the network will cover 100 million people by year-end 2008 in conjunction with a planned partnership with Clearwire Corp.