The recently announced alliance between Microsoft and Starbucks Coffee could greatly increase consumer exposure to the benefits of mobile commerce.
'It's an enormous opportunity, and one that can expand the potential of the marketplace for wireless products,' said Nevin Cohen, senior analyst for eMarketer. 'However, Starbucks needs to make sure this service will appeal to a large enough percentage of its customers to make it work.'
The basic outline of the deal is this: Starbucks will start to roll out broadband wireless connection capability in late spring, provided by Texas-based wireless network MobileStar. Customers will need to own their own wireless devices to access the service.
According to Alan Reiter, CEO of Wireless Internet & Mobile Computing, participating Starbucks stores will be outfitted with wireless access points. Customers would then need to get a wireless access card to activate their devices at the participating store. Starbucks sources say that cards and access will be offered on a metered or subscription basis.
The concept of a wireless cybercafe is not what Starbucks has in mind, but the potential for a limited amount of free wireless access is. That will be enabled by content from The Microsoft Network and potential mobile commerce alliances with other companies and services.
'We want this service to add to the Starbucks experience,' said Darren Huston, SVP of new ventures for Starbucks. 'We want people to buy more coffee. Some of the features and feasibility of the service will be worked out over the coming months. But we think the opportunity to access your corporate intranet and get your email while on the road will be of great value.'