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Google's Free-Time Secure WiFi

Search giant Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) is getting into the remote connection VPN market for wireless LAN with a free offering that one of its engineers put together in his "free time" at the company.

The program, which is only available for Windows 2000 and XP, currently works at "Google WiFi locations in the San Francisco Bay Area" according to the company's WiFi FAQ.

Naturally, Google is being fairly low-key about the new software and what it might indicate about about the company's plans for WiFi services.

"Google WiFi is a community outreach program to offer free wireless access in areas near our headquarters," a company spokeswoman tells Unstrung. "The project was started as part of an engineer’s [20 percent] time project*, and we are currently testing it at a limited number of locations."

But some industry analysts are expecting more ambitious moves from Google in the public access WiFi space in the future. "I think they intend to get big in WiFi," opines Craig Mathias, analyst at the Farpoint Group.

"Hotspots are going to become very valuable as dualmode WiFi/cellular subscriber units [phones] become more common. Security features like theirs are also going to become common to combat the 'evil twin' problem and other assorted maladies that plague unsecured networks of any form."

Google has been working with software startup Feeva Inc., which has developed technology "to identify, target and deliver relevant and useful information to the user, in collaboration with online media, content, advertising and search services," over wireless broadband links, such as WiFi hotspots. Feeva (formerly UnwireNow) has already launched a couple of free 802.11 networks in San Francisco.

But for the time being Google is not naming its hotspot partner (or partners), saying that "the ISP service has been purchased by location and is independent of what Google offers."

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

*In case you are wondering, a "20 percent time project" is Google-speak for company time that the firm sets aside for its employees to work on their own pet projects, which may or may not have anything to do with Google.

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