April 15, 2003

More Wi-Fi

Kinko’s is getting into the game now, teaming up with T-Mobile to equip many of their stores with wireless access. I suppose that makes sense, since Kinko’s has long had wired access in their stores. This adds to the other partnerships they already have, like Starbucks and Borders. And allowing people to print documents over their Wi-Fi will undoubtedly bump up Kinko’s sales.

The Kinko’s deal follow the same pricing plan as T-Mobile’s other partnerships, which I still think costs too much for casual users to get interested. It’s ten cents per minute, but there is a one-hour minimum. So you’re charged six bucks right off the bat, and most people, myself included, won’t pay that just to try it out or play around with it. Cometa had the right idea with McDonald’s: give us an hour free with each Value Meal. T-Mobile’s $30 monthly charge will have to come down one day, too, but as T-Mobile creates more partnerships and expands to more locations, it might be more valuable. Especially if, for your $30, you can get online at Starbucks, Kinko’s, Borders, the airport, and McDonald’s (at least when Mickey D’s dumps Cometa for T-Mobile. Which you know they will.)

Of course, a lot of independent places are giving out free Wi-Fi, hoping that’ll be the hook they need to pull people away from the chains. This free-vs-pay battle will be the one to watch over the next few years. I still think that the free hotspots are going to put a lot of pressure on the places charging for access. But whether there will be a definite winner or whether it will stay fractured remains to be seen.

Filed under The Computer Vet Weblog

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