Internet-ad revenue is, after all, Google's bread and butter, and the company is introducing more and more ways to deliver targeted ads aimed squarely at your cerebral cortex via your eyeballs. Do a Google search for info; get an ad. Do a Google Maps search for, say, pizza; get an ad. Check your Gmail; get an ad. Access files via Google Apps; get an ad. Hop over to YouTube (which Google bought last year); get an ad. Log in to an online game, and soon enough, I expect you'll find Google-delivered ads, because Google recently scooped up AdScape, an in-game advertising startup.
Of course, the notion of offering free Internet access, essentially paid for by advertisers, isn't a new one. You may recall that NetZero http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9405E3D9103FF936A1575AC0A... ">gave it a whirl back in the early days of the Internet Age. Alas, the venture was a flop, arguably because the Net had yet to prove itself as a successful medium for businesses to advertise to consumers. Thus, the company couldn't support the infrastructure and deliver a useful, reliable service.
But now we know just how lucrative the world of Internet advertising is. Suddenly, NetZero's original business model looks quite viable, though updated to the current state of the Internet Age.
And Google can certainly afford to build up a wireless Internet infrastructure and deliver Net access, gratis, along with delivering all the fabulous aforementioned services, just like NBC and ABC and other major TV stations can bring you daily programming for free. The cost of the hardware and development is all paid for through advertising.
So there you have it. Google can practically hand out Google-optimized smart phones through which you and I can access the free wireless GoogleNet to partake in just about any (Google-delivered) service we might want or need, from e-mail and calendar to maps to entertainment like streaming video -- again, for free.
OK, so not entirely free. If that above scenario were to play out, and you're a business that depends on Net advertising, you may find that Google really is the only company that can bring your message to the masses, and you'll really have no choice but to pay a premium for that privilege.
And personally, I still find it all just a little bit troubling.