In a novel bid to blend its customer’s coffeehouse experience with the world wide web, Starbucks will provide free Wi-Fi access at its stores all over the country from July 1. This was announced by Howard Schultz, CEO of the company at a business conference, Disruptive by Design, organized by Wired. The access will neither require any special registration, nor have any time limitation. However, a unique identifier would be required to log in.
Starbucks already provides access to Wi-Fi in its stores through AT&T, which is free for users of AT&T or Starbucks cards, but costs $3.99 for everyone else. Further, the access is limited for duration of two hours only. Similarly, many other competitors of the company, notably Panera Bread and McDonald’s, are also offering free unlimited access. The current announcement is being seen as an attempt by Starbucks to catch up.
However, what will differentiate its digital services is the Starbucks Digital Network, also announced at the conference. Through this, customers will have free access to various paid services and sites such as WSJ.com, Zagat, iTunes, Yahoo, The New York Times, USA Today and Patch. The network will also provide local community news, free downloads and exclusive content. It will also provide localized content that one can’t read anywhere else.
Schultz, who has been emphasizing upon creating a third dimension between work and home since taking over as CEO in 2008, is trying to position Starbucks in that dimension where people can come to work and socialize online.