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Google leaps into new Sprint portal

Apps for WiMAX

Who says wireless carriers can't play nice with Google? As it prepares to introduce a new WiMAX broadband wireless network in a handful of major American cities, Sprint has announced that Google will supply several applications for a mobile portal it's building specifically for the network's customers.

When Sprint WiMAX debut, which could happen as early as April of next year, this mobile gateway will offer a wide range of third-party mobile apps, each a little different from other tools available across the net. At least, that's the plan.

"Sprint is developing and hosting a portal, and it will feature Google web services and communications services," Sprint told El Reg. "We're basically creating a mobile internet destination for our customers. Once they get there, they'll have lots to do and see."

Intended for use with all sorts of wireless devices, from handhelds to notebooks, the free portal will be available to all Sprint WiMAX customers.

Think of WiMAX as Wi-Fi with some extra kick. Whereas Wi-Fi wireless has a range of a few hundred feet, WiMAX signals can extend several miles - and they're less susceptible to interference from other networks. Sprint plans to test its new network in Chicago, Baltimore, and Washington DC by the end of the year, with the official launch set for April 2008.

Google wouldn't tell us all that much about its agreement with Sprint, but a spokesperson did say the portal would include four of the company's existing apps: Google Search, Gmail, Google Talk, and Google Calendar. Yes, mobile users already have access to such tried-and true Google applications, but according to Sprint, each will be re-designed specifically for its new network.

For instance, the company says, an app might take advantage of a device's ability to pin-point your physical location. You've heard the pitch before: "Imagine traveling to a town for business and not knowing where to eat and what to do," Sprint says. "You'll be able to type in a search and instantly get listings for restaurants and stores that are right near you."

Over the coming months, the company hopes to encourage the development of additional apps as well, opening up the portal's APIs to the web community at large. "We're a firm believer in the open internet, and we want to create the opportunity for the introduction of more applications and services for browse-able devices," the company said.

Yes, that sounds like a dig against the iPhone. But, naturally, apps won't show up on Sprint's new WiMAX portal without Sprint's approval. ®

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