MetroFi is proving able at connecting itself with larger partners while still running the show: MetroFi is working with AT&T to provide Wi-Fi service in Riverside, Calif., in a winning bid there, and has bid with that telecom giant for Sacramento. In Portland, today's announcement is that Microsoft will offer a combination of targeted, super-local advertising for the MetroFi network in that largest of Oregon's cities, while also providing local content, such as maps.
GigaOm has more detail, with reporter Katie Fehrenbacher noting that Microsoft can match advertisers to prospective customers by Zip code within the network, and that the MSN division will deliver weather, news, restaurant and nightlife details, movie listings, and local government services. They'll also offer search results, which is a nice way for MSN to insert itself into a market dominated by Google. Fehrenbacher writes that MetroFi and Microsoft are both playing coy about the business relationship and what (if any) money is involved.
If this deal sounds vaguely familiar, we only need rewind to January 2001, when MobileStar signed up as Starbucks Wi-Fi provider. In this press release, those two firms and Microsoft note, "During the coming year, the companies will work together to develop services that leverage the power of the wireless broadband network. For example, customers will be able to download the latest information on local arts and entertainment and shop online while enjoying their beverage."
A few short months later, MobileStar filed for bankruptcy, and by late 2001, T-Mobile (then the separately owned VoiceStream) had acquired the firm's assets out of bankruptcy.
Now, I'm not in any way suggesting a similar fate for MetroFi--I just want to show how that wheel of synergy is a big cycle that keeps turning, turning, turning.
I'd rather point out that providing resources that are local to a given hotspot wasn't a bad idea, although it hasn't caught on to any great extent in the five intervening years. Offering super-local resources for a metro-scale network, however, seems truly useful. If I can power up my laptop as either a resident or visitor in Portland, and have the network know (with my permission, I hope) precisely where I am, then I've jumped ahead several steps in understanding my local surroundings and making decisions about what to do next with my good self and my good money.