Application-specific WiFi for free

I’ve read some chatter lately about free WiFi offerings by Yahoo! and others tied to a specific application. Connecting a product to an established network of connection points makes a lot of sense for companies with established branding power, and I think there will be many new partnerships to help users of specific applications stay connected on the road.

While there is a lot of talk about companies building their own WiFi networks for specific purposes I think we will instead see partnerships with existing restricted access networks with some advertising and branding swap to offset costs.

Yahoo! Messenger On-the-Road

Although just a survey question with a screenshot at this point, Yahoo! could offer similar partnerships for its ad-supported client software such as Messenger. Yahoo! already has a partnership with AT&T combining high-speed Internet with Yahoo! content and it makes sense for Yahoo! to continue that relationship with AT&T and the Boingo Wireless aggregation business to extend its reach and cross-marketing.

Yahoo! would collect money from advertising within its Messenger product to offset any costs to the network. Boingo Wireless would receive its WiFi-finder bundled with millions of Messenger downloads, increasing its ability to sell subscriptions to hundreds millions of users.

Nintendo DS

Nintendo currently offers its portable gamers free access via Wayport connections in the U.S. and Canada. As of last month Nintendo WiFi had over 1 million users connecting to play online from McDonalds, Borders, cafes, and more.

Nintendo makes money from hardware sales and software licenses and McDonalds becomes a new place for kids to play with their Nintendog while eating a Happy Meal.