RealTime IT News

Compaq Chosen to Equip Starbucks

Compaq Computer Corp. and Starbucks Coffee Co. today announced a five-year, $100 million deal in which Compaq will equip the Seattle-based coffee shop chain's customers with wireless Internet access.

In a mid-morning conference call, Houston-based Compaq said it would supply Starbucks with iPAQ handheld computers and other equipment to give customers high-speed, wireless Internet access in its North American stores.

"Almost 90 percent of our customers are compatible for this kind of partnership which offers a true enhancement to the lifestyle of our customers," said Howard Schultz, Starbucks chairman and chief global strategist.

Schultz said his company approached Compaq regarding the deal.

While Cyber cafes have only recently sprouted up across the metropolitan landscape as hip hang-outs for Net starved users, Starbucks is intent on retaining its image as a one stop shop for busy, upper-level educated consumers who spend hours lounging and drinking high priced java between newsprint lines.

During the conference call Schultz denied the partnership would create a cyber cafe. "It will be the antithesis of that," he said.

Michael Capellas, Compaq's chairman and CEO, said users could expect a high-tech open platform where streamed audio and video play-back would be available on-demand in the near future. "This is not your standard cup of tea," he said, unaware of the pun.

Compaq, in partnership with Microsoft, has equipped 100 Starbucks stores in Dallas, San Francisco, New York and Seattle and plans to hook up 500 more by summer.

As a part of the deal, Compaq will provide Starbucks with computers at their headquarters and in all 4,100 stores.

On April 12, 2001, InternetNews.com reported that Richardson, Texas-based MobileStar Network Corp., which is providing wireless infrastructure for Starbucks, would use two spread spectrum technologies: the older Frequency-Hopping (FHSS) and the recently standardized 802.11b Direct-Sequence (DSSS).

The company's CTO, Ali Tabasssi told InternetNews.com that when the company started in 1996 they deployed with Open Air FHSS wireless systems. But with the 802.11b standardization by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc., the company started deploying both after March, 2000.

"We chose to be technology agnostic and provide service on the network to both caps," Tabassi said. "We are seeing that 802.11b is definitely taking a huge step as far as acceptance goes in the enterprise environment. Corporations are using 802.11b to go wireless in their buildings and those same users are demanding that the card they are using in the office be used at home and on the road," he said in the interview.