Free Air Conditioning!

Motel sign with "air conditioned"Mobile access is pretty much essential to enterprise collaboration these days, as people now get work done everywhere. But it’s hard to “share knowledge” when you don’t have Internet access. Good news: Starbucks just announced it will provide free wifi in all U.S. company-operated stores.

Here’s what I find interesting:

  • It’s not just about free Internet access – later this year Starbucks will roll out a partnership with Yahoo that provides customers free unrestricted access to pay sites and content from The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Apple iTunes, ZAGAT, and other providers.
  • They understand the frustration factor: Starbucks is promoting this as “one-click” connectivity, bypassing the perceived hassle of logging into retail wireless systems, even when you’re already a member. If this works, I think they’ll sell more than enough coffee to pay for the wireless infrastructure.

What’s the take-away? As Kevin Tofel noted on GigaOm, “wireless access by itself is no longer enough to differentiate a company’s services and woo customers.”

It’s the same story in the enterprise: it’s no longer enough to simply provide access to collaboration tools (let alone a musty old intranet). To attract and retain active internal users you also need premium content, such as micro-messages shared among specific groups, workspace (wiki) pages, blog posts, links to valuable articles, and filtered activity streams. Today, that kind of stuff is chill.