Even somebody paying a little bit of attention knows that interesting things begin to happen when Microsoft shows up. That's why we take special note of this iMedia Connection story detailing the company's plans to participate in MetroFi's free wireless Internet service in Portland, Ore.
So far, the deal only includes content. The story does note that expanded arrangements with MetroFi and other partnerships with others are possible. It's highly likely that these deals will expand beyond Microsoft offering ads and local search. Indeed, the company has in the past worked on mesh technology.
Sparkling new technology will always be the most exciting element of IT and telecommunications. But a growing secondary focus is the innovative melding of existing services, applications and platforms. Instant messaging, video conferencing, VoIP and wireless technologies are available from any number of providers. Vendors that offer these as discrete applications will get lost amidst the increasing noise.
The companies that win aren't necessarily those that invent the technologies. It'll be those that combine them in the most creative and efficient ways. Useful applications, not shiny technology, win market share.
Microsoft gets this. In addition to putting its toe in the metro Wi-Fi water, the company has announced that VoIP will be embedded in the coming Vista operating system and has signed a partnership with an Israeli company named Runcom to produce WiMax cards for mobile devices.
We're not planning or product development gurus. Moreover, a company as big as Microsoft always will have a lot of ongoing projects, and it always will be possible to imagine threads between them if they don't exist. It's interesting, however, that all three of those projects can fit together so seamlessly: Support for metropolitan meshes fits nicely with mobile devices that support WiMax and have tightly integrated VoIP applications.
The company's recent moves in the unified communications sector dovetail nicely with this idea.