Readers Want Wi-Fi in Their Combo Meals

Responding to an earlier column, readers hold Ross Rubin close to the flame for criticizing Wi-Fi at McDonald's, but our

Given the digestive-tract reactions often attributed to fast food, I should not be surprised that my recent column on the downside of the Wi-Fi Value Meal special generated a little bile.

Furthermore, since I wrote that column, the industry has shown that it is determined to take Wi-Fi into even more-remote restaurants, with IBM announcing that it will bring the wireless networking standard into truck stops across the nation. (This should allow our faithful Teamsters to get their bits on Route 66.)

Readers sounded off about the utility of wireless networks at express eateries as well as some speculation on McDonalds marketing motives.

Mark L. Decker writes, "Youre just plain wrong on this one. Sure, a McDonalds is hardly a comfy place to work, but neither is Starbucks when you think about it. Besides, youre missing the point. Its not about plugging your laptop into an AC outlet to recharge and spend an hour crunching spreadsheets. Thats what offices are for.

"A McHotspot is for quickly checking e-mail on your PDA while youre standing in line to place your order. Or pulling directions to your after-lunch appointment from MapQuest. These are the real killer apps for Wi-Fi. Hotspots will serve the same purpose pay phones did in the 70s. A reason, other than an empty tank or a full bladder, to pull into a gas station or fast-food restaurant while on the road. What McDonalds has wisely realized is that you might like fries with your e-mail."

Glenn P. Davies also sees Wi-Fi usage as enabling the kind of "occasionally connected" computing that Peter Coffee addresses in his eWEEK column. Glenn writes, "Maybe the purpose of the Wi-Fi locations at McDonalds is not for people to sit and surf, but rather while waiting in line or eating their burger to download e-mail or other stuff to their PDA or Wi-Fi phone. These people would then read their e-mail or enjoy whatever was downloaded after leaving McDonalds.

"This type of situation is similar to what I noticed occurring in Japan. People download/upload e-mail to/from their phones in the subway stations where they get a signal. They read and compose e-mail in the tunnels between stations. Many people do this. So if McDonalds can get in on this type of action, there may be some profit to be had."