With tiny scattered networks and the loss of McDonald's, Toshiba's SurfHere locations fold into Cometa Networks: As rumors surfaced a few weeks ago about a reduction in force at Toshiba's SurfHere division coupled with the inevitable reason--McDonald's had already informed them that Wayport would be their anointed partner--Toshiba is essentially exiting their poorly formulated and executed hotspot strategy.
While Toshiba couldn't gain traction on its turnkey hotspot offering, Cometa gains the ability to include "some or all"--as the press release puts it--of SurfHere's 350 locations. Reading between the lines, they can cherry pick outlets that make sense to Cometa's mission. Cometa's current count of hotspots in their directory is about 100 excluding the McDonald's that will be taken over by Wayport. The Barnes & Noble deal, a year in the making, will eventually add 500 locations in the U.S. to Cometa's list. In a News.com article, the reporter notes Cometa hopes to have 800 locations by September not including the SurfHere hotspots.
Toshiba is a massive computer manufacturer, however, and the press release pledges their involvement in promoting Cometa Networks' hotspots. A tricky affair, since Cometa has long said that they weren't branding their hotspots, but rather pushing through resale to brands like cell operators.
Publicly held companies rarely like to admit defeat as it can open them up to shareholder lawsuits and stock drops. But the press release pushes a little too hard. "Having helped stimulate the emerging hotspot industry, we believe we can best continue with the strategic intent of the SurfHere Network through this alliance with Cometa Networks," says Chris Harrington, vice president, strategy and business development for Toshiba's American operations.
Out of between 8,000 and 10,000 current U.S. hotspots a handful of locations scattered around the country were Toshiba locations. They had no major initiatives. They came late to the party. They secured no chains of stores or major venues. They had, let's be honest, an almost (but not quite) zero effect on the emerging hotspot industry except to show that at the end of the day you can fire hotspots out of a gun and hope they stick.