Starbucks' free wireless service is a boon to the mobile employed and unemployed, or anyone just looking to kill some time. But starting tomorrow, every store in the nation will also offer sippers a nice buffet of free online content.
The Starbucks Digital Network puts media picked out by the coffee giant on a platform designed by Yahoo, all for free. We're not talking feature films or anything here, but it's a decent, well-designed offering that might make you feel a little better about your caffeine addiction. The "network" is essentially a website—with mobile-optimized versions—accessibly only when connected to a Starbucks WiFi point, and offers a variety of digital distractions, from exclusive film clips and song of the week picks, to hefty eBook excerpts. More interestingly, the site will also allow unfettered access to some services that are pay-only outside of the store—notably, the entire Wall Street Journal website, famous for their iron pay wall.
We asked Starbucks reps whether they'd be beefing up their bandwidth in anticipation of this onslaught of connection-heavy stuff—and they aren't. Which is a little worrisome, since at least in our neck of the woods, the connection at Starbucks isn't always speedy or reliable. Rarely both. But they did maintain that they're keeping an eye on the service at each store, and would make upgrades accordingly. So, if your free connection slows to a crawl, you might know what to blame, but enjoying your morning paper for free ninety nine and some neat videos alongside your latte ain't so bad. We just hope they're as committed to the hardware end of things as the thoughtful media side. And now, I stop complaining about a free service. [Starbucks]