Add this to the 99% speculative category…

Starbucks has a nice little thing going.  And it isn’t just caffeine addiction or 50 Million songs to give away.   They have over 10,000 locations in the US alone and are filling each one with Wifi access from Tmobile.  That is a lot of coverage…and in very important, high trafficked areas like malls, city streets, and college campuses.  You could almost call them a “wifi telecom”

Starbucks also have a new partner in Apple to help promote their new record label on the iPhone.  What do Apple and its customers get from this deal?  Some new music choices and some free old ones.  Not terribly compelling.  However, there might be more to the deal than what has been released.

In the recent deals with Tmobile in Germany (and O2 in the UK), Apple has bundled the iPhone with wifi access in the carrier’s locations throughout the country.  No such arrangement exists in the US.  So why should Europeans be the only ones who get bundled Wifi with their plans?

Add to that Starbucks/Tmobiles free Wifi Access to Vista customers for a month promotion with Microsoft.  They obviously have the capability to do a wide rollout like this.

“But iPhones have EDGE?!” you say?  True, but it is SLOW and web browsing and video watching are much more fun on a good Wifi network.  The iPods touch are also left out in the cold for web browsing.

How will it go down?  Most likely, the login credentials for the Wifi will be the same as the iTunes music store.  This will allow easy billing should make for a pretty seamless experience.  We expect to see this kind of functionality in the next major iPhone and iPod updates – especially since the capability to do this has already been announced for Europe on their 1.1.1 firmware iPhones.  It will probably be relatively inexpensive and might even be on a per use basis.  

This also fits right in with Apple’s new “everything is subscription” ideas lately.  It also adds another revenue stream to the iPhone and iPod which could be shared with Tmobile (this could also be done on the Laptops too).  99 cents for a day of surfing.  $9.99/month.  Makes sense right?

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