When Starbucks introduced for-pay Wi-Fi in 2002, it seemed like a great deal (especially for business customers who could expense it). But five years later, the model appears old and stale and ready for a complete overhaul.
Prediction: Starbucks will start rolling out free Wi-Fi access within one year.
Doubt it. I’m not privy to Starbucks deal with T-Mobile, it does seem that ultimately TMo has the final say in whether their wifi service will be free or not. I do see Elgan’s point about how Starbucks is using free wifi to stimulate certain kinds of transactions, but that’s a subsidy as opposed to offering it for free.
It may be premature for Elgin to label Starbucks wifi model "stale" given that so many people take advantage of it. Again, I am not privy to statistics on this, but anecdotally I can say that whenever I walk into a Starbucks I am highly likely to see someone online, and among my friends I hear that Starbucks is often their second office because of the connectivity.
Lastly, while I am sympathetic to the McDonald’s argument, the fact remains that they don’t have anywhere near the coverage that Starbucks does with their wifi service.