Microsoft hasn’t announced this yet, but it is apparently rebranding Skype Wi-Fi as Microsoft Wi-Fi and expanding a business version of the service to Office 365 Enterprise customers. Microsoft Wi-Fi, like its predecessor, helps customers more easily connect to public Wi-Fi hotspots and minimize expensive cellular data usage on their mobile devices.
Based on the publicly-available web site for the new service, here’s what we know about Microsoft Wi-Fi.
There are versions for individuals and businesses. Microsoft Wi-Fi is a service aimed at individuals, while Microsoft Wi-Fi for Business targets businesses.
It’s not about free Wi-Fi, and it’s not a subscription. If you use the Data Sense feature of Windows Phone, you know that your handset can be configured to automatically connect to free public Wi-Fi hotspots without requiring you to enter credentials. Microsoft Wi-Fi works like that, but like Skype Wi-Fi it also lets you pay for Wi-Fi access using a revolving credit line that you can top-off as needed. So it’s a pay-as-you-go service, not a monthly subscription.
Coverage. Like Skype Wi-Fi—because it’s the same thing—Microsoft Wi-Fi claims a database of millions hotspots. But there are more of them: 10 million vs. 2 million with Skype Wi-Fi, and they can be found all over the world in 130 countries, in common locations like airports, hotels, restaurants, and other public spaces.
Find Wi-Fi. You’ll be able to find the nearest compatible Wi-Fi hotspots on an interactive map (as you can now in Windows Phone, per above). That link doesn’t work yet, sorry.
Access on a card. Microsoft will sell Microsoft Wi-Fi cards so you can top off your account or buy access for friends and family. Like other such cards, you will simply enter an alphanumeric code into a form to add the amount to your account.
Cross-platform. A Microsoft Wi-Fi app will be released for Windows, Windows Phone, Mac OS X, Android and iOS. (Neowin is guessing that the mysterious Network Beta app found in the recently-released Windows 10 build 10130 is in fact this app.)
A new perk for Office 365 Enterprise. Access to Microsoft Wi-Fi for Business will be included in Office 365 Enterprise subscriptions. I take this to mean that businesses can pay to keep their employees connected while on the go, and will have some management interface for customizing how this works.
I’m curious to see what we don’t know and assume Microsoft will officially announce this service soon.