Customers at Starbucks will be able to use the WiFi connection at any of the participating Starbucks for free, when they purchase a coffee. At the time of ordering, the customer will be given a reusable USB token that will allow them to register their machine for a dedicated period of time, allowing the free WiFi access.
The move will allow more customers to use Starbucks as a mobile work office; being able to drink coffee, compute and make VOIP calls to anyone via the Skype network.
In order to capitalise on the joint venture with Skype, Starbucks will be installing dedicated work booth areas in 150 stores as a pilot in January 2007.
Starbucks CEO, Jim Donald is excited about the strategy. “Together with Skype we will be able to provide an end to end IT service for our customers – from connectivity to coffee.”
UITW, the Union of IT Workers is not so sure about the offering. “It’s well documented that American IT workers on the whole drink in excess of the daily recommended allowance of caffiene as prescribed by the Surgeon Gereral. Similar evidence in other countries agrees with the findings here in the US.” spokseman Bob Ahearn stated.
“To then tempt them with a timer based system for WiFi access when purchasing coffee is like having a crack dealer stand out front of the Betty Ford clinic. This could lead to an unprecented higher level of unhealthiness for our members. ”
Despite the small number of opponents to the move, if the strategy pays off, then Starbucks intends to expand the program into other countries where WiFi is gathering strong momentum.
“It’s our goal, if this pilot succeeds, to create the world’s largest private WiFi network.” Starbuck’s Donald stated.
Skype CEO Niklas Zennström has agreed that the joint venture between the two companies could result in an implementation that the world has never seen before. “We have seen Skype grow at a phenonomal rate in the past 2 years. The venutre with Starbucks is likely to push our growth even further.” Zennstrom added.
“Riding off the back of the success of the venture is a number of planned programs like a Starbucks Skype card where people can earn Skype credits for coffees that they purchase. There are no limits to this venture.”