Microsoft’s continued drive in their “Mobile First, Cloud First” mantra has continued with the news that they have teamed up with iPass to bring eligible Microsoft users access to 18 million global access points for free. While the details are still not fully defined, particularly this “eligible” customer portion, the news is exciting and could open a new wave of connectivity for millions of users who travel. iPass, for those who don’t know, has a network of WiFi access points (commonly shared with other vendors) that is unsurpassed in the world. They bill themselves as having the “largest commercial WiFi network” and having been an iPass user for many years, the value this could bring to Microsoft customers may be hard to measure when it is all said and done.
According to the press release from iPass, certain Microsoft product and services customers will have access to the iPass network and will be able to log into these WiFi access points using their Microsoft account.
Rather than requiring users to register and remember credentials for different Wi-Fi networks across the world, eligible Microsoft customers will be able to use their existing Microsoft service credentials to automatically gain access to iPass’ global Wi-Fi network without providing credit card information to unknown Wi-Fi providers in remote locations.
On the surface, this could really mean anything. It could be that only enterprise customers are able to enjoy the benefits of iPass or it could be completely open to everyone. I suspect that it will be somewhere in the middle. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if this is bundled up with Office 365 as you already get Skype minutes with an account. The fit seems reasonably natural.
Equally, it is unclear if this would be defined as only going through the iPass app on your Windows Phone or would be open to any Windows powered device.
Regardless, the potential is huge and from a Microsoft perspective it makes complete sense to do this type of a partnership. Effectively it gives customers access to their services and apps no matter where they are in the world geographically as well as physically: Hotel, Airport, Trains and Planes. It also means that they don’t have to worry about building something out themselves, the path which Google seems to kinda-sorta-maybe trying to take.