One day, my pie in the sky will be crumbs on a plate. Full-bellied, my GoogleNet wireless connection will intuitively retrieve an ad for Alka-Seltzer; the bubbly concoction plop-plop fizz-fizzes with tiny executive voices admitting in fizzy whispers, “yes, Jason, Google’s full of it.”
On March 16th, three wireless patent applications were published by the US Patent & Trademark office, submitted by Google employees. The applications, in large comforting letters at the top, announce the subject of their protection:
Patent #20060058019: Method and system for dynamically modifying the appearance of browser screens on a client device.
In one embodiment, a connection of a client device to a wireless access point is identified. Further, the appearance of a screen presented on the client device is modified to reflect the brand associated with a provider of the wireless access point.
Patent #20060059043: Method and system to provide wireless access at a reduced rate
Methods and system for providing wireless access at a reduced rate. In one embodiment, access to a WAP is provided to an end-user at a rate subsidized by a first entity. The first entity includes advertisements in an end-user view.
Patent #20060059044: Method and system to provide advertisements based on wireless access points
Methods and system to provide advertisements in a view of an end user accessing a wireless access point. The advertisements are related to the WAP based on a predetermined criterion.
I’m bad at math, let’s double check. System for reducing wireless rates + way to serve ads based on wireless access points + technology to alter browser to show sponsors of access points = x.
When CNet asked Google about the patents, the Internet advertising authority responded with a wordy “so what?”
"Like many companies, we file patent applications on a variety of ideas that our employees may come up with. Some of those ideas later mature into real products or services; some don't," a company representative said. "Prospective product announcements should not be inferred from our patent applications."
But, but, but, but…didn’t they just last month join forces with Earthlink to propose a two-tiered wireless citywide service to San Francisco? Well yeah, because Google and Earthlink believe in open access to the worlds information.
"We have submitted this proposal because at Google we're focused on creating new technologies that make it easier for people to quickly access the world's information,” said Google.
“Customers shouldn’t be tied to their desks, or to a single provider, to get the Internet experience they want. Both EarthLink and Google recognize this and are attempting to provide great service and choice in San Francisco,” said Earthlink.
A little while back, Robert X. Cringely asserted that Google would not morph into an Internet service provider because ISP’s are “lousy businesses.” But one thing missed here is that advertising and media companies are not lousy businesses. Google is morphing into a network, and teaming up with ISP’s to deliver content and advertising.
Let’s do some more math. Google buys up dark fiber nationwide + alphabet soup of speedy extra capacity Internet technology + huge databases + wireless advertising patents + deals with Earthlink + deals with media companies + WiFi testing in San Francisco= x.
Google, notoriously secretive, has a preference for hedged statements with phrasing like “at this time” and “announcements should not be inferred.” A maybe-maybe-not stance is protection against failure. No promises equals no liability.
In addition to that, the wireless ad-supported network they may or may not be envisioning will face fierce opposition from huge telecommunications companies who don’t willing let anybody cut in on their turf, not even for emergencies.
Is the GoogleNet a pie in the sky? Maybe, but it’s losing altitude all the time.