I went to try out the network today in a nearby Starbucks to little luck: Your faithful WNN reporter likes to test the dog food offered by companies he writes about, and so I set out this Saturday to visit a Starbucks nearest my home (reportedly the second busiest in the United States) to try out the new Starbucks Digital Network (SDN). The results were poor.
The store has no branding for the service yet. I used my iPhone to try to bring up a launch page; no luck. I checked, and I was on the AT&T network, and a deep technical detail on the phone indicated that it was a Starbucks node. I visited Starbucks.com, and there was a movie on the home page explaining SDN, but no links to content.
Finally, I searched Google for references to see if someone had slipped out a URL. TechCrunch had a screen capture with a visible address. I typed it in (quite long), and was redirected to m.starbucks.yahoo.com—Yahoo is the back-end operator of this effort. (Visit that address outside a store, and you get an error page: "It looks like you’re trying to connect to the Starbucks Digital Network in partnership with Yahoo!. You can only do this when you’re connected to Wi-Fi at company-owned Starbucks locations in the United States.")
The page that came up was clearly not designed to be displayed on an iPhone. It's possible there's a custom page that should have been shown. I entered starbucks.yahoo.com to see if a better redirect would occur, but I was pushed back to "m." A few top-level items are promoted, although a Yahoo search banner dominates the top. Below that, a free iTunes download, a promo clip for Waiting for Superman, and something else I cannot now recall.
I tapped a banner for News way at the bottom (I suspect that's due to the wrong mobile UI being presented), and very very slowly, a page with links to the New York Times Web app, the Wall Street Journal, and other publications appeared. I tapped, waited, tapped, and finally checked other sites over Wi-Fi. Clearly, the network was overwhelmed—there were an ocean of laptops in the store.
That's not great for a rollout. Staff needs to be trained. Table tents or posters should be up. The splash page should work. Bandwidth should not be so scarce. It might have been a glitch, but a fairly glaring set of them.
Update: Chris Wichura sent in a photo of the flyer on the table in a Starbucks he went into. No URL. Splash screen didn't work for him, either, it sounds like.