Thursday, November 11, 2010

Justin Bieber vs. Level 19 Fire Troll

Now you can choose on Google's free in-flight WiFi

Need to play World of Warcraft in the sky between JFK and LAX? Or review the YouTube library of Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga music videos before the peanut cart arrives on the aisle? Let the fight between two of your favorite WiFi options begin--maybe even before the seatbelt sign turns off!

For most of the year, you can pay just $11 for 24-hour access to Google's WiFi internet at certain airports and on certain planes. However, recent news reports let us know that Google is once again offering free WiFi at certain airports and on certain planes during the holiday season.

Wait a second, you're saying. There's no such thing as a free lunch, and certainly there's no such thing as free WiFi.

How does a big ticket company like Google get its millions if it spends its days offering free, high-quality, and useful items? I feel like Microsoft charges for nearly every little thing it can offer, so to me they're not on board here. What's the business strategy in offering free stuff?

To me it seems like Google has long held a mantra of offering choices and, when possible, free choices. Their original search engine was famously simple to look at, not riddled with flashy banners and ads, and yet today Google is considered today to be a powerhouse in advertising.

Google acquired YouTube and kept the free service free: because free is a great word for building an audience. Today Google offers free WiFi all year round for a number of nearby Californian residents. From Google we get a free internet browser, a free desktop gadget utility, free lightweight yet powerfully adaptable email, and even an entire operating system (although this last one is admittedly not free; it does come preloaded on gadgets to be announced in the future).

The company's unofficial slogan at its inception was, “Don't be evil.” My thought is that the company seems to have spent its history making useful products that are either free (Google Earth is free, but its former competition wasn't), pleasant in their efficient utility (Chrome, Google search engine), or just a straight up challenge to the existing market competition (Buzz, Android).

To see evidence that Google is growing and succeeding, just take a look at the history of their investments, including stocks and acquisitions. I don't think that just because a company is enormous means that they are evil. So far Google has been pretty good to me.

Next time:
A Brief History of Google: An Illustrated Companion

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