The good news: Google will be sponsoring 4,000 Boingo hotspots through the end of the month. That's a lot of Wi-Fi! The bad news: It looks like only devices that have direct Google Play access—Android phones, Macs, and PCs—will benefit. Which, hey is Google's prerogative. But it's also a very different Google from the one we used to know.
First, the details from the press release Google and Boingo sent out today: 4,000 hotspots, including 15 airports, tons more hotels and parks, and the occasional NYC subway stop. If you want to use your internet machine to access the world wide web at any of those locations, you can do so without reaching for your wallet (or, more likely, your PayPal password).
But! The wording Google uses makes it sound very much like iOS and Windows Phone users will be left out in the cold:
Starting this week, Wi-Fi users with Android phones and tablets, as well as Windows and Macintosh laptops, will be offered complimentary Wi-Fi...
The Wi-Fi amnesty is specifically sponsored by Google Play, which iPhones and Windows Phones obviously can't access, so it makes some sense that Google wouldn't want to cast connectivity pearls before those particular swine. If you had an Android phone, the hotspot subliminally says, you'd be Google image searching right now and maybe downloading one of our 600,000 Google Play apps, preferably one that you pay for that's not secretly malware. And so what? Google's a company, this is how companies make money.
All that's true, but some of us remember the days when Google's main goal was to get as many people on the internet as possible—since once you're there, you'd invariably find your way to using one of its products. Now, though, Android's not just a searcher delivery system; it's an ecosystem. And ecosystems must be curated and fed and served.
It's a small example, maybe, but an example just the same of Google's trend towards self-interest above the user utopia it originally envisioned. Even if it ends up being Wi-Fi for all, the exclusion of iOS and Windows Phone from the press release is a more aggressive cordoning off than we might have seen five years ago.
Again: there is nothing inherently wrong with that. But whether it's bad or it's good or it's a shrug, it's definitely a shift. And one that leaves more of us worse off.