How about a venti, no-foam, vanilla latte while you charge up your beleaguered phone? If that sounds enticing, then Starbucks (NASDAQ:SBUX) has a pitch for you. The caffeine king is working with Duracell's Powermat to bring wireless chargers to all of its stores.
A short history of owning the Internet, one coffee shop at a time
In May, a website called The Information reported that Google would begin supplying low-cost Wi-Fi equipment to all sorts of retailers. Last summer, the search king specifically teamed with Starbucks to outfit all 7,000 of its U.S. locations. Adding wireless power takes the entire effort to a new level.
Who gets the better end of the arrangement? You'd think Starbucks, if only because the act of entering a store -- even if it's just to charge up -- increases the odds you'll buy a drink or a snack. But Google wins, too. More convenient access to power allows us to spend more time online searching for answers to life's pressing questions, such as how to get to that out-of-the-way restaurant you've been dying to try.
For Google, which trades on data about us and our habits, every moment we spend online has the potential to become a monetizable event.
The "be-everywhere" strategy
Once you fully process that, Google's giveaways start to make sense. From drones to balloons to satellite-delivered Internet, anything that makes it easy to get users online becomes a cog in one giant Internet machine that divines profits from the bits and bytes flowing through the world's networks. If I'm surprised by anything in this deal, it's that Google isn't somehow a sponsor.
Meanwhile, Duracell Powermat gets the best possible endorsement for its technology in front of an audience of likely buyers. An estimate from the American Community Survey finds that 2.6% of the workforce, or 3.2 million people, telecommute from home or places like Starbucks. The ratio goes much higher when you count the self-employed. Call them digital nomads who need the sorts of technology Powermat provides. Starbucks is about to give them unprecedented access, all while granting Google a few more chances to profit.
Tim Beyers is a member of the Motley Fool Rule Breakers stock-picking team and the Motley Fool Supernova Odyssey I mission. He owned shares of Google (A and C class) at the time of publication. Check out Tim's web home and portfolio holdings or connect with him on Google+, Tumblr, or Twitter, where he goes by @milehighfool. You can also get his insights delivered directly to your RSS reader.
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