starbucks-free-wifi-SJULY 1, 2010 • Following in the footsteps of McDonalds earlier this year, Starbucks made AT&T wireless access free in all of its locations. The coffee purveyor used to charge for wireless connections, but sees the move as a competitive advantage. While some competitors argue that free access only encourages patrons to stay for hours on the purchase of one small brewed coffee, Starbucks hopes to wrap the free access in a selection of downloadable content that can be purchased online, with a portion of each sale going to the retailer.

Impact: While initially a premium consumer experience, Starbucks has been mass market oriented for years with 17,000 locations worldwide and 11,000 in the U.S. While this is less than McDonalds, it is still ubiquitous to the consumer and a sign that digital content distribution is on its way towards consumer ubiquity as well.  Convenience store 7-11 is currently offering Zynga downloadable game content to consumers through product codes on packaging of in store purchases, thus it is not entirely unlikely that certain promotional game content could be distributed through Starbucks.