Another billion Internet users are about to come online with the help of Google (Nasdaq: GOOG ) .
In the developing world, El Goog has started to roll out what will be known as Google Free Zone. Primarily aimed at feature phones, Free Zone allows users to connect to Google Search, Gmail, and Google+ without incurring any data charges. Users won't need an existing data plan with a mobile carrier, nor will they be served any advertisements .
Google has already teamed up with mobile carriers to bring Free Zone to South Africa and the Philippines. But the master plan is to reach 1 billion users in emerging markets that first experience the Internet on a phone. It requires a Google account to get started, which can be created from a browser-capable mobile phone within Free Zone.
How it works
Users can Google Search and even click on links without incurring any data charges. They are only charged when they click on a link that's twice removed from Google Search, and it is clearly indicated when that happens. As long as a link keeps you within the Google ecosystem, or is only once removed from Google Search, Free Zone is unlimited.
Does Google benefit?
The next billion Internet users aren't likely to own computers and have little experience with the Internet. By focusing on nations without many Internet users, Google can create an image that it's a great and giving company. Over the long term, positive brand associations have incredible value for business. By the time emerging markets experience a higher standard of technological living, Google will already be well established with strong brand recognition.
But don't let this worldly ambitiousness fool you. Google has had its share of big-dreams-gone-bust in the past. To name a few, Google Wave and Google Research have been sent to the graveyard where dreams go to die. The moral of the story? Google has a history of backing away from big ideas. If Free Zone isn't working out because carriers have shown reluctance to partner with Big G, or project managers become disappointed with the uptake, Google may scrap the initiative.
Free Zone is a long-term initiative for Google to captivate the hearts and minds of the next billion Internet users. Given Google's ability to continuously think far ahead into the future, this is likely another positive development for long-term investors.
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