The google proposal to provide wireless access to all of San Francisco is a bold move by google to increase the mobile use of web-based applications among early adopters.
Current attempts to move applications to the web are crippled by the fact that users can’t reliably get an internet connection when outside there home or office. For example, an online calendar is an obvious potential killer app (since it lets you easily share your schedule and coordinate with others, on online calendar is far superior to a desktop-based calendaring application). But most people who require an online calendar need to access that data when they are on the move (for example, in the dentist’s office, in a meeting at a client site, or on the train). The same principal applies to online word processors, wikis, email clients, and so on. Unless you can count on always being able to connect to the network, most users will prefer to carry their applications and data with them, rather than using a web application.
San Francisco is (coincidentally? I think not) ground zero for spunky “Web 2.0” startups that are developing web applications that seek to replace desktop applications wholesale. But many of these applications will only have a shot at mainstream success once connection to the network is something that you can just take for granted, rather than something you have to hunt down with a wifi-finding key ring!
By providing wireless data access throughout San Francisco, Google is trying to create conditions that will allow the early adopters to switch wholesale from desktop applications to web-based applications. This is not simply a way to poke Microsoft in the eye. Google has the best AJAX developers in the world, and has great marketing clout. Any category of software that moves to the web is a category that Google has an opportunity to dominate. Fortunately, those of us in the bay area will have a ringside seat, thanks to the gift of google wifi!