Starbucks announcement that they will be offering free WiFi starting in July comes as no surprise. Many independent coffee shops have been doing so for some time, and even McDonald's now offers free WiFi.
But what is interesting about the announcement is how much they discuss turning Starbucks into a "third place" for work. In the New York Times article on the announcement, a Starbucks spokesperson is quoted as saying:
“We expect this to be a very versatile tool for people who are using Starbucks for what we call the third place, between home and work,” he said.
The article goes on to point out that Starbucks is increasingly catering to freelancers and those looking for jobs:
The coffee chain is catering in part to people who are out of work and need a place to perfect their résumés or do freelance jobs. In January, the company announcedthat same-store sales increased 4 percent after months of steady declines. Starbucks attributes the improvement, which came before consumer spending rebounded as a whole, in part to its role as an office for the unemployed.
They are also going to be offering the Starbuck Digital Network, a set of online content created in partnership with Yahoo. The NY Times describes this as:
"Customers will also get free access to paid Web sites, like those of The Wall Street Journal and Zagat, free iTunes downloads and previews of not-yet-released movies and albums. They will see local content based on the coffee shop’s location, like news from Patch, AOL’s local news site, check-ins on Foursquare and neighborhood photos on Flickr."
While Starbucks will likely never offer the full range of services and the community aspects of coworking facilities, free is a powerful marketing tool.