Watts (chipotle) wrote,

It's the McFuture?

I'm sitting at a McDonald's on my lunch break, using the in-store 802.11 wireless network to post this. Cafés with wireless networks aren't new, of course, but this is different for two reasons.

One, they've figured out that the model the cafés are using is ridiculous. Nearly every coffee shop has a wireless network that you can surf on a subscription basis by signing up with their "hotspot provider" for $20-30 a month, or an as-needed basis which is usually charged daily or hourly. This wouldn't necessarily be bad, although it seems to limit it to people who think they can justify paying what amounts to another monthly ISP bill just for use in coffee houses.

But every coffee house is using a different provider. Starbucks uses T-Mobile HotSpot, La Boulanger is using HotSpotzz (or something else stupid with a "z"), independent coffee shops are often using Boingo or Surf-n-Sip. Which means that even if nearly every café you go to could let you sit down and surf with your laptop, you wouldn't be spending $20 a month, you'd be spending $100 a month on a half-dozen networks.

McDonald's uses yet another network out here called WayPort, but that doesn't matter, because they're not using a subscription model. You can pay $5 for two hours of access, or you can get a coupon with your food for two hours of access.

Oh, the second reason. The second reason is that this is freaking McDonald's. This is cool in a warped way, but also mystifying. The average coffee shop customer is a lot more likely to sit around in the place working on a laptop for a couple hours than the average McDonald's customer. It's rare to walk into any coffee shop these days and not see at least one person on their computer--there's been times I've been one of a half-dozen sitting around with one. But McDonald's... let's face it, this was never a sit-around-and-sip atmosphere, and the "McD Express" restaurant design they've been switching to over the last decade has the charm of a gas station. They've been heavily promoting this wireless access over the last week, from local billboards to national news stories, but the (surviving) dotcommers are not storming the place to take advantage of this. I've been here nearly an hour and have seen nary another laptop.

If nothing else, this does give me inspiration on how to charge for wireless access at the coffee shop I'll never run: as long as you're buying coffee, it's free.

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