Why Starbucks/Apple Collab is so Interesting


Back when the Zune dropped (and kept dropping…) I was talking with a friend about the features – specifically the wifi that came built-in. While the product as a whole seemed like a brick, there was something interesting about having a media device with ad-hoc wifi enabled. He envisioned a new wave of advertising directed squarely at these Zune users. Had Microsoft had their heads on straight, this type of service should have been launched along with their “iPod Killer”.

Fast forward a few months from then, and the iPhone is kicking butt and taking names. Then a wifi store is given us, along with an interesting feature collaboration with Starbucks: buy the music you hear in the coffee shop over their wifi! This feature hasn’t gotten the attention I would have expected. But essentially, Apple has launched the type of initiative that Microsoft missed out on earlier in the year.

It starts with Starbucks – hear a song you like while sipping a latte, connect your iPhone to their wifi, buy it. Take it a step further, and when you walk into a Target, Nordstroms, or Sephora (for example) and get targeted deals sent right to your promiscuous iPhone. Obviously you don’t have to choose to view it, or use the wifi in such stores, but there’s the model! Maybe this Starbucks collaboration will lead to essentially free (ad-driven) wifi in more places. This could really turn the tide as it seems more and more wifi is closing the doors to being offered up for free.

I for one wouldn’t mind seeing a targeted ad, sale-priced items, or a quick 30-second commercial if it meant I could grab some free wifi in most of the places I frequent. Obviously this doesn’t apply just to the iPhone, but I think it’s interesting that such a model of advertising could be around the corner because of it.



Give me wifi in every store, and skype on my iPod Touch with a nice earphone/mic piece to boot, and payed for by ads? I’m perfectly alright with that.

But is Starbuck’s deal ONLY for an iTunes store or complete Wifi as well?

Nick Santilli

@Galley – I’m right there with you…have only been in a Starbucks about a half dozen times. But I’m sure i’ll go with an iphone toting friend just to see it in action.


At first I thought: “How hard could it be to install a wireless router in each store?” Then I realized it was a little more complicated than that. I don’t drink coffee, and thus don’t frequent Starbucks, but I think it’s a cool idea to have the song info.

Billy Halsey

@Jon — Targeted ads are good as long as they aren’t too targeted. Which is to say, it’s OK to identify me as a member of a group (Mac user, writer, indie movie fan, etc.), but don’t identify me individually.

Thanks for the feedback on the QT article. Glad you found it useful!

Jon Robinson

@Billy, I also think we would be lucky because I find targeted ads to be useful and valuable. They help me get what I want faster and easier. I think most people agree at least in deed if not in word. Remember in Minority Report, they guy walks in and the screen knows what he bought last time and presents ads accordingly? It doesn’t have to be so blatant and public, but a cool text message or Wi-Fi pre-roll could serve the same purpose.

By the way, thanks for your Quicktime post recently, really clarified things for me, since I was wondering what to use. Turns out iMovie (not 08) does just fine.

Billy Halsey

Nick, I am with you and Jon Robinson. I think it would be a good think if we saw 1 30-second commercial upon entering a new “zone”, after which the wifi would be free with 2-4 30-second adverts per half-hour. Premium subscription networks (just like subscription to T-Mobile HotSpot at Starbucks, Kinkos, Borders, and many hotels and airports) would allow you to bypass all advertising entirely.

To answer Marc’s question, we are thinking we will be lucky to get ads thrown at us because that’s what they’re going to do anyway: might as well get some wifi free as opposed to ads without free wifi. I’ve seen quite a few coffee shops and other places with free wifi lock them down and start charging within the last two years. If I could get free access again just by watching an ad or three, sure, why not?

Marc Palmer

Amazing! Wifi/broadband costs a retailer close to nothing to put into their premises. Why are we even thinking we will be luck to get ads thrown at us when we would be tied to being near their premises anyway, and hence that is advertising enough.

Stop being such pussies and smell the wifi! Paying for or getting ads in exchange for wifi is an elaborate con.


The problem with the starbucks deal, have you seen the ETA? We are looking at implemtation in “most” starbucks, in “most” major metroplitan areas by the end of 2008. If initial implementation with the first company will take over a year, you can probably bank on no other companies getting in bed on this. By the time there are stars on it, no one will be interested in looking into partnership anymore. That I can go to a starbucks and freely download podcasts will be great though!

Jon Robinson

I think it is a great idea. I would love to get more wi-fi with a pre-roll ad before I get access or get targeted offers. As far as them being pushed on you, you can always tell the iPhone to ignore/forget that network or maybe pay for premium network access.


The day Apple allows “partners” to start pushing ads to my iPhone or iPod is the day I chuck it in the trash.

And seriously, when was the last time you were sitting in Starbucks and heard a song you liked? The reason people bring their iPods to Starbucks is so they don’t have to listen to Antigone Rising.

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