Microsoft and Starbucks join forces
January 4, 2001 7:03 AM   Subscribe

Microsoft and Starbucks join forces to provide wireless Internet access for caffeine junkies. I was worried enough by this alliance ("Great Satan" and "Corporate Kudzu," etc.), but then I read that McDonald's is looking into doing the same thing. Sure, there is a certain convenience factor, but do we really need branded connectivity everywhere we go?
posted by mkhall (12 comments total)
If we want any kind of connectivity everywhere we go then someone's going to have to pay for it. And the people that do pay for it pretty much have the right to splash their names all over the things.

And I think think that the general populace does want the connectivity.
posted by cCranium at 7:51 AM on January 4, 2001

But it's not free:

"The arrangement will enable customers, for a fee, to connect to the Internet from a laptop computer or other device equipped to handle wireless data. "

Also, has anyone bothered to do a study on how long people are at a table? People go in, get their food (McDs) or coffee (SB), sit down, open up their laptop, boot up and start working.

With the added Internet connection, you'd then have to jack in, boot up, program your network settings, reboot and then, (if you have time and don't have to troubleshoot your network connection), get back to work. That extra time may not be worth paying money for. Especially in's called "fast food" for a reason.

posted by bkdelong at 7:59 AM on January 4, 2001

Similar tangent: I was surprised to see a local Jiffy Lube remodeled. The interior was very late-90s Starbucks: rich wood everywhere, trendy lighting and seating. It was bizarre. Also, there were three flat-panel screens attached to PCs brimming with net access in addition to a full line of coffee and donuts.

It was a fine illusion until the guy wearing the greasy uniform came in.

Seeing MS stuff at Starbucks isn't surprising to me - for MS, that means bazillions of eyeballs looking at the net through MSN Explorer (you know they're not going to use IE....)
posted by hijinx at 8:01 AM on January 4, 2001

I thought McD's and their ilk wanted more throughput, not less. Surely this encourages people to linger, something everything else in a McD's is designed to discourage (seats, lighting, colour scheme...).
posted by Markb at 8:09 AM on January 4, 2001

hijinx: I had the same thought, that you would have to use MSN Explorer, but the indication is that they are just providing access, while you provide the equipment. They require "a laptop computer or other device equipped to handle wireless data." On rereading the article, I'm not sure exactly what they are providing, other than a wireless connection. If it's my hardware, I don't think they can force me to a particular homepage for branding. I admit, I may have been wrong with my earlier "branding" comment.

bkdelong: I was surprised to see the comment that Starbucks isn't interested in turning tables. At the handful of Miami-area locations, not only do you have to wait forever in line, but it is already difficult to get tables. Perhaps the feeling is that if people are going to camp out there anyway, at least they can charge them them an hourly rent for doing so. I would imagine that the profit margin on the wireless service is better than on a double latte. (I'm sure someone will educate me if I'm wrong).

cC: I am still unconvinced that the general populace really wants free-form wireless connectivity. Some of us do, but most folks want to be able to find out movie times and travel directions more than anything else, and that they can get from their cell phone or Palm VII. The general populace doesn't even own a laptop to take advantage of the service.
posted by mkhall at 8:25 AM on January 4, 2001

Well duh, that's why people actually eat in these 'fast food' places. Because you get your food, no matter how much fat it's in, fast. No one is going to waste the half-hour break they have on reading up some of the websites.

The whole unpacking thing is extremely difficult, in that you have to take wires in and out, you have to keep your hands clean, for technology doesn't *exactly* work with ketchup/mustard stuff. Didn't that 'why men don't use coupons' study teach them anything?

Starbucks? That's the scary part, not only did you have obnoxiously pretentious ass-holes forming lines, now they'll all be carrying their laptops with them. Argh! Is there no end to hell?

Side note - chances are, if you're already using a laptop on the go, and connect it to different networks and such, you have dhcp stuff setup, where it configures it automatically at the boot-up. I really doubt they'll go with proxy.

posted by tiaka at 8:28 AM on January 4, 2001

Any idiot willing to pay $3.50 for a mocha-latte-chino-frappe isn't going to have a problem with any kind of corporate branding.
posted by bondcliff at 8:53 AM on January 4, 2001

I knew I'd get bit on the "pay for it" aspect.

And to clarify in advance, I'm not really talking about wireless connectivity, specifically. From a user standpoint, you'd have to plug your laptop into something to get it to connect and you probably won't be inclined to wander around the store with the connection. The wireless aspect of this is just for buzz in my opinion.

Like others, I don't see the point at a MickeyD's, but coffee shops still attract people who sit for an hour or more working on something. I doubt it's intended as something people popping in for a coffee on their way to work are going to bother with.

Back to the point, cost. Someone has to pay for the infrastructure, someone has to provide the servers and the software and the support to run this beast, and they have to do it before they can start making a profit. It's essentially an investement into a new area of profit-making.

The people making that initial investement are going to plaster their names all over it.

I'll take for example, HP. Their "Innovate" division, the part of the company that invests hardware and services in other companies, as part of the agreement gets their logo put on the website (as an example) they're helping out.

Roger's media, here in Ontario at least, has been hard at work on a massive co-branding scheme, where they pump some money into a technology that suits them, and the technology company responds by putting the Rogers co-branding symbol on their product. Or their product packaging, their advertising, whatever.

Without that initial investement the infrastructure won't ever be there, and companies that take a chance - because it really is a chance, this scheme could easily flop - have paid for the right to brand as they see fit.

As for whether or not the general populace wants general connectivity, well, I'm not completely certain on that. I know I do, I'd love to be able to plug my laptop (well, assuming I had a laptop that is :-) into the table or chair or whatever wherever I go and be wired up. Better yet I'd like a cheap, constant wireless connection that stays live wherever I go without having to lug around and readjust a dish, but that's much harder to implement on a wide scale.

Most roaming laptop users have the necessary hardware to connect to a LAN, may as well make use of it.
posted by cCranium at 9:31 AM on January 4, 2001

I'm wondering how long it will take before there's a push for installing filtering software on machines. I'm sure there will be cases of porn surfing in a family-friendly McDonalds soon after connectivity is installed.
posted by mathowie at 9:48 AM on January 4, 2001

I would imagine there'll be a reasonably elaborate filter in place from the get-go. Not that that will block all the porn sites out there, of course, but it'll at least make people work a bit to find it.
posted by cCranium at 10:25 AM on January 4, 2001

The thing that concerns me is pretty much what bkdelong mentioned: do you have to muck around with your settings to get it to work?

What this may do, though, is spur a really good intelligent configuration-detection methodology that could be built into future OSes.

I have to say, when I want to look at porn, McDonald's dining area is the first place that springs to mind.
posted by dhartung at 3:55 PM on January 4, 2001

I've never used a hotel-based Internet connection; how much do you have to muck around with your settings for that?

Perhaps this'll kick MS into gear 'bout getting their networking settings not require a reboot. Have they fixed that in ME?

If you're already using DHCP it shouldn't be that difficult, though I agree the entire process could use a good ol' fashion kick in the pants.

And if you use the service regularily, then it's only a problem the first time through, but how much help are the coffee-slingers going to be? How much help is your generic tech support person who isn't already worried about getting the dash of cinnamon just right for the Niles Crane that just walked in?
posted by cCranium at 4:55 PM on January 4, 2001

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