Strategic Foresight | Wireless

Unbound Spiral: Wi-Fi Hospitality

August 25, 2003 09:11 PM

Headline reads "WI-FI Hits the Spot" again quoting Gartner Dataquest who estimates there will be 22.6 million users logging on to 53,300 spots in the US by 2008.  Then IDC says 28 million will be using Wi-Fi by the end of 2003.  Hard to understand how these firms survive.  Who buys these perspectives? Consumer or business numbers? Is that really something like 20 people per spot / hour? Is that current maths? What about all those homes installing Wi-Fi?

At least the Chronicle article picks up on small business owners who are giving it away - free (please buy another coffee).  It's the way forward.  Rule of thumb number.  $50/mth DSL line plus the modem plus the Wi-Fi Router and installation.  Less than $1000 all up per annum.  Number of coffees at $2.50 40%GP (it's much better almost double -- than this!!!) = 1000 coffees extra.... that equals..... about 4 per day or maybe one every two hours.  I'm willing to bet that Wi-Fi coffee lounges get more people hanging around pretty quickly on a daily basis --- this hospitality will pay out. 

So lets think laterally and exponentially rather than the straight-line straight-jacket forecasting that appears to be going on in the article.  What's happening in the Palm PDA market?  What's happening in homes everywhere?  What are kids doing?

Well last Christmas PDA's were becoming a gift item for Soccer Mums --- the $99 Palm.  (Was that really just last Christmas?) More recently PDA's are morphing with phones and ..... some are adding Wi-Fi.  My head is still rules my heart --- the HP 5455 still looks real nice and remains expensive.  Still Wi-FI cards are becoming cheap.  If you are a student.... on an enabled campus... could this replace your cellphone?  Could a $300 Wi-Fi PDA be the next gift instead of moving your student from desktop to laptop? Yes laptops are gettting cheaper and PDA's are cheaper still. PDA's have one over phones when connected to IM.

On the flips side I'm visiting friends and colleagues recently and Wi-Fi at their houses is no problem.  One buddy pulled out his new Palm last week and just connected to AIM and an IRC chat off the PDA all with a gadget the size of a billfold. For those with Broadband already... little more than $30 will provide a connection for your guests. Run a B&B?  Get Wi-Fi. Etc.  Etc.

When students or Soccer Mums want to network then the always on IM buddylist connection is unbeatable.  It may result in a message "can u talk now?" (and thus may go VOIP or to the phone) the fact is accelerating Wi-Fi and IM adoption may go hand in hand.  Campuses are converting now. Schools will go Wi-Fi or the neighbors near schools may just provide it; Safeway supermarkets too.  With Wi-Fi PDAs loyalty programs will finally begin to make sense.  Shopping lists, and promos all in one. Yes I know it is not tomorrow.... Still these early indicators may point in new and unforeseen directions. 

So here's the start of a scenario has to impact on the numbers above.  Let's call it "Wi-Fi Hospitality".  If you have broadband... it's simply impolite not to provide Wi-Fi in your home or business.  If you keep me waiting in a waiting room at the doctors office.... let me at least have my link.  As for Starbucks --- pity their deal with T-Mobile.  Nothing like a hospitality brand that is no longer a good host! I want and expect free access.

There was once a time when visiting where we asked politely to use someones phone. Now the script is written --- please excuse me a minute... I must go and make a call (cellphone).  There is no returning  our guests to the "polite" ---- do you have Wi-Fi?  Do you mind? It may be as offputting as asking --- "Can I use your computer?" --- there is a level of privacy and lack of indepence involved in that request. 

So to be THE HOSPITABLE HOST hook up Wi-Fi so the next time a friend enters your house and their PDA smiles... WiFi inside you get to hear the "Cool Dude - I'm connected! Thanks!" You may just expand your network and in the short term impress your friends! 

All in all this has very little to do with linking Wi-Fi and blogging.  I just feel that how we connect affects how we blog. 

To close. If you are an enterprise using the Gartner / IDC numbers for planning I'd think carefully about what they are telling you.  Make sure you ask the the question; "How could we be wrong?"  



Comments (1)

Future scenario indeed, but closer than many others. The merger of WiFi and IM make for powerful connections. And the hospitality vector is something we are only beginning to figure out. Why, I've just recently told all my friends that I will no longer come to dinner at their houses if they don't provide Wifi access. No word yet on the uptake. I wish they'd hurry. I'm getting hungry.

In the meantime, I'm waiting for Handspring to put WiFi access in a Treo. Can you believe -- search the Handspring site for "WiFi" and get ZERO returns. What?! Or maybe one of the other cell phones will do a combo device, but then who's going to use their overrated, overpriced G3 network? And phone/PDA ergonomics are an issue. Maybe a Tungsten is the answer. But whichever it is, WiFi is definitely the road to the future.

Posted by: Terry Frazier at August 26, 2003 7:51 AM