Starbucks and T-Mobile are rolling out their wifi hotspots around the UK. For a while, connectivity was free — in Soho people took advantage of the wireless spillover from the Starbucks in Wardour Street to work next door at Freedom, which has a licensed bar, rather than in the coffeeshop itself (reception preceeds perception, remember).
Perhaps they are counting on pent-up demand — or Intel’s pervasive Centrino advertising — to drive sales, but at over ?5/hour, I think they’re pricing themselves out of their core market — wired workers who simply want to log in and check their email, or VPN into their office networks. Admittedly 802.11 is cheaper and faster to use than dialup from a mobile phone, but the likely early adopters are the most likely diss Starbucks for its watery lattes, corporate ethics and cookie-cutter decor: given some competition from better chains and indies, expect prices to fall, and fast. For now, I’ll still be checking my email over a decaf soy latte at Tinderbox in Angel.