Shortly before Christmas, I wrote about how Starbucks (Nasdaq: SBUX ) had lost its appeal as a destination, a place for writers like to me sit, sip, get connected (wirelessly), and write.
Since then, my regular coffee shop has been destroyed by the recession. Color me bummed. I've tried other places that offer free Wi-Fi, including my favorite independent bookstore and a great little place just outside Denver called Stella's. Both are far more appealing than Starbucks -- but neither is as useful.
Not. Even. Close.
Wi-Fi is the problem. Stella's is crowded. So is my favorite bookstore. When too many PCs try to take a slice of bandwidth pie, we all get a sliver. Or nothing. Connectivity is a big deal for yours truly, whose scribblings are usually published on the Web. The Internet helps me to check facts and find source documents.
Enter Starbucks, the only reliable deliverer of Wi-Fi outside of my home office and The Apple Store. As it turns out, paying for access makes sense after all.
This isn't just good news for Starbucks. AT&T (NYSE: T ) will once again get $20 a month from me. Deutsche Telekom's (NYSE: DT ) T-Mobile, meanwhile, continues to get play on the Starbucks Wi-Fi page as a roaming partner. As more of us become mobile, self-employed workers -- New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg is concerned enough that he's proposing an unemployment safety net that would cover local freelancers -- these services could see higher revenue.
That, in turn, could create more incentive to roll out metropolitan wireless via WiMAX from Clearwire (Nasdaq: CLWR ) and its development partner Sprint Nextel (NYSE: S ) . Having WiMAX would loosen the leash for mobile workers by covering portions of entire cities (and suburbs) with wireless Web signals. Jack in at the coffee shop, the bookstore, the park, anywhere. Someday.
What we have now is ... Starbucks. Yet investors don't seem to care. Those following the stock in our 130,000-strong Motley Fool CAPS database are more bearish today than in December. Only 77.9% of those rating Starbucks give it the green thumb versus 78.9% a few months ago.
I understand. I'd rather be writing at Stella's. I just can't afford to be.
How about a steaming hot cup of related Foolishness?