Monday, February 11, 2008

Starbucks going almost free

For Internet wireless access, that is. It has long been a frustration to me -- and I am sure not really a benefit to Starbucks' bottom line -- that they used the overpriced (and highly unreliable) T-Mobile service for this. AP reports:

Starbucks said Monday it will give customers that use its Starbucks purchase card two hours of free wireless access per day. After that, it will cost $3.99 for a two-hour session. Monthly memberships will cost $19.99 and include access to any of AT&T's 70,000 hot spots worldwide.

Nearly all of AT&T's broadband Internet customers will automatically have unlimited free Wi-Fi access at Starbucks.

Current T-Mobile HotSpot customers, who pay anywhere from $6 per hour-long session to $9.99 for a day pass to $39.99 a month for unlimited access, will get Wi-Fi access at no extra charge through an agreement between AT&T and T-Mobile.

This is, of course, not nearly as big news as Microsoft's ongoing attempts to buy Yahoo! But both events are part of a larger trend -- the movement towards free and open networks and software. I predict that in another few years, Starbucks will follow the example of many a local coffee house and provide wireless access completely free. The customers will just expect it.


Keith said...

Almost free is like almost pregnant. Starbucks still does not get it. Other coffee shops offer free service, I am going there if I need to send time and my money on coffee. If they really wanted a leg up on McDonalds free internet is a differentiating service. This will not help!

Keith said...

Where is my spell checker! Sorry for the spelling error ;). I meant to say that if I want to spend time at a coffee shop on the internet, I will spnd my money on coffee, not air time.

Chris Bird said...

It's only a piece of the story. I use t-mobile's hot spot service ($20/month unlimited) so I can access in my local airport, the Admiral's Clubs, Starbucks (until this terrible deal) and other weird places. So now I feel disenfranchised. I never quite understood the economics of paying per visit at Starbucks. It doesn't take very long before you have spent > than $20 in a month on wireless access. For me it is all about convenience. Having lots of choice of locations is good. However, with first Barnes and Noble, then Starbucks getting out of the T-Mobile plans, my choices are fast becoming limited.

Oh well, Starbucks doesn't make much off me anyway. Fedex Kinkos are still T-Mobile hotspot enabled and I don't have to buy expensive coffee there!