SBC will operate Barnes & Noble's Wi-Fi hotspots: Second time's the charm, I guess. Cometa Networks, now deceased, spent a year wooing Barnes & Noble before making the announcement of the bookseller as their "anchor tenant" in a national network in March 2004. Come April, Cometa starting winding down its operations.
Barnes & Noble has almost certainly been eyeing whether Borders Books decision to work with T-Mobile made sense, and whether they needed to offer a hotspot service as a competitive balance. B&N has seen other setbacks in the digital realm, and after being burned by one hotspot operator, it's clear that they picked one that was likely to be in business several years from now--and become a dominant player.
Contrast the statements made by Barnes & Noble this time around to when they struck their deal several months ago with the now-deceased Cometa Networks:
March 2004 (News.com interview): "We want to make our stores--and specifically, the cafes inside them--a destination, and hopefully, (the hot-spot service) will bring (customers) back more often," said Gary King, chief information officer at Barnes & Noble.
November 2004 (press release): "We chose SBC to be our Wi-Fi partner because they provide our customers with the best user experience and value in the industry," said Chris Troia, chief information officer of Barnes & Noble, Inc. "SBC has a customer-friendly pricing model and widespread coverage in major metropolitan areas."
See? In March, it was inward focused, about their business. In November, it's outward focused about making sure the partner is right and will drive traffic to the store. (Yes, I know that press release statements are written by the company making the deal.) You'll also notice that the person with the CIO title changed from March to November, but it's unlikely the hotspot deal had anything to do with that.
The service is available immediately, probably using hardware originally installed by Cometa.
Also today, SBC announced hotspot service will roll out at "up to" 88 Avis Rent-a-Car locations. This deal is similar to Wayport's and Hertz. Interestingly, because SBC is a customer of Wayport's and hires Wayport to build out portions of its hotspot network, Wayport could be building the Avis locations and SBC could be reselling the Hertz hotspots. Avis will unwired by early 2005.