Beginning next month, McDonald's will do away with its $2.95 fee that it had been charging its customers for two hours of wireless Internet access, and will add free Wi-Fi to its menu, David Grooms, McDonald's USA Chief Information Officer, said in an interview.
Making the free access possible is AT&T, which has partnered with the fast food chain to offer free wireless through most of its restaurants. Financial details of the deal, however, were not disclosed.
McDonald's decision to make the switch to free Wi-Fi comes as the chain tries to transform itself into a social hangout and not just a greasy burger joint. In addition to its wireless plans, McDonald's will also begin selling frappes and smoothies in most of its stores by mid-2010.
"We're becoming a destination and free Wi-Fi just naturally fits," Grooms added. "This is another long-term investment that we see helps McDonald's stay relevant as a brand in the marketplace."
The future looks bright for the wireless LAN industry, which is on pace to reach record revenue by the end of the third quarter, says market research firm Dell'Oro Group.
The WLAN market wasn't hit as hard as other businesses in the recession, which took a particular toll in September, but was still affected enough to see lower sales in the first and second quarter of 2009. Before the economic downturn, revenue climbed to record levels in the fourth quarter of last year, and it appears the WLAN industry is finally picking up where it left off. Worldwide revenue for WLAN equipment recovered to $1.1 billion in the third quarter of this year, up about 12 percent from the second quarter, and came close to matching the $1.14 billion of the previous year's third quarter.
Analysts attributed the upswing to stimulus money granted by the U.S. goverment, for which vendors claimed have driven deals. Market researchers also point to the growth of IEEE 802.11n and the boost it has gotten from being standardized.
If you listen to Microsoft, ad hoc wireless networking, which lets several Windows computers share a single connection, is one of a bunch of networking features not included in Windows 7 Starter Edition. But is that really the case?
"On Windows 7 Starter Edition, the 'Set up a wireless ad hoc network' link in the [Set Up a Connection or Networking] dialog is missing," said Rivera in an entry on his Within Windows blog. "That's the licensed 'feature' you're missing out on. I repeat: You're licensed to use ad-hoc networking. You're not licensed to use the shortcut in this dialog. To access the wizard that this link normally points to, simply Start Menu search for 'adhoc.' It's a lot of work, I know."
So for the time being, netbooks users running Windows 7 Starter can still create an on-the-fly connection for sharing an Internet connection, but this is something that Microsoft will likely address in a future hotfix or Service Pack.
"I believe it's safe to assume this is an unintentional screw up," Rivera added. "Enjoy it while you can, netbook cheapos."
The cash keeps coming for Clearwire, the wireless broadband provider who managed to secure another $920 million in debt to continue constructing its global 4G wireless network, InternetNews.com reports.
"With this latest tranche of additional funding, we have not only exceeded the amount of capital that we have previously stated we needed to fully fund our business plan, but we have also secured additional capital that will allow us to expand more aggressively by covering more people, and with more capacity than we had previously planned," Clearwire CEO Bill Morrow said in a statement.
The latest infusion of funds of will come from 12 percent senior secured notes, due 2015 at an issue price of 97.9 percent. Not bad, considering Clearwire already stands to receive $1.85 billion in senior secured notes in the same year.
Earlier this year, Clearwire said it needed more funding -- anywhere from $2 billion to $2.3 billion -- in order to expand its network to at least 120 million people by the end of 2010. As it stands, Clearwire's 4G network is only available in a handful of cities, including Chicago, Baltimore, Portland, and Philadelphia.
Now available from USB Geek is the aptly named USB Wireless Handheld Keyboard and Touchpad. The marketing gurus have pegged the device as a simple wireless input device, but this could be the perfect stocking stuffer for HTPC enthusiasts.
You won't find a multitouch interface nor is there an LCD. But it does come with a trackpad, wireless USB dongle, and a QWERTY keyboard in a form factor that will have all those hours honing your text messaging skills paying off.
It works from up to 30 feet away, and a bright backlight ensures you'll have little trouble manipulating your DVR in the dark. It also comes with a built-in rechargeable battery and supports Windows 7, Vista, XP, and 2000. And at $62, it's not going to break the bank either.
Check out a video of the remote USB Wireless Handheld Keyboard and Touchpad in action here, then hit up the product page for more info.
For the most part, Klipsch bowed out of the multimedia computer speaker market a long time ago, leaving behind a rabid fan base hoping it would one day return. That day has come, sort of. Klipsch is back and has brought with it a new 2.1 speaker-set, or more accurately, a new twist on an existing 2.1 setup.
It's hard to believe Klipsch's original ProMedia 2.1 speakers have been around for almost a decade. The new ProMedia 2.1 Wireless purports to look and sound like the THX-certified original, only this time without the wires. Replacing them is a USB wireless transmitter that plugs into your notebook's USB port.
"Only a few simple steps are required to get the ProMedia Wireless up and running. Just plug, play, and enjoy the full sonic impact of your music, movies, and games without being tied down, "said Don Inmon, Klipsch director of product development for personal audio. "No router or installation software is needed."
Klipsch says the wireless range extends about 30 feet in a single room, making it deal for dorm rooms, offices, living rooms, or anywhere else you might tote your notebook.
Sonos has released its new ZonePlayer S5 in the U.S., an all-in-one music sysetem with a built-in wireless receiver and amplified 5-driver speaker. The all-in-one can be controlled with an iPhone, iPod touch, or any Sonos Controller.
"This is the best time in history to love music," said John MacFarlane, CEO, Sonos. "The marriage of devices such the iPhone and the Sonos ZonePlayer S5 connects consumers to an entire world of music and gives them an easy way to control it all from the palm of their hand, in any and every room of their home."
Each of the five speakers comes with its own dedicated Class-D digital amplifier. The S5 also includes a 2-port Ethernet switch, auto-detecting headphone jack, analog audio inputs, support for several major music services, such as Last.fm, Napster, Pandora, Rhapsody, and SIRIUS, and the ability to download from any service offering DRM-free tracks, including iTunes and AmazonMP3.
On the social networking side, the Sonos Software v3.1 integrates Twitter into the Controller interface, allowing users to tweet the name and artist of whatever track they're rocking out to.
The ZonePlayer S5 is available now direct from Sonos for $399.
Don’t get all cozy with your Bluetooth 2.1 products just yet. There is another standard on the horizon that aims to take over your wireless life. The Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) is touting a report that indicates 23 percent of Bluetooth equipped devices will run the new 3.0+HS standard by late 2010. This is expected to rise to 61 percent by 2011.
Bluetooth 3.0 was adopted on April 21 of this year. The new standard includes support for Alternative MAC/PHY (AMP) transport. AMP allows Bluetooth devices to use the 802.11 protocol for large data transfers. Additional power management technologies are expected to increase reliability as well. Circulation will start with external USB dongles for desktop and notebook PCs very soon.
As oversell in the wireless industry continues apace its fairly apparent that existing networks can’t keep up with demand. AT&T is the glowing example, unable to manage the enormous data demands placed upon it’s networks by iPhone users, resulting in slow service and dropped calls. Qualcomm, a mobile data service provider, has offered up an obvious solution: make the networks denser.
Obvious, yes, but not in an obvious way. Paul Jacobs, Qualcomm’s CEO, says that by using femto networks on top of existing networks it’s possible to get “eight to 10 times improvement in user experience.” Patrick Mannion of RF Design Line describes femto networks, or femtocells, as “a low-cost, low-power cellular basestation that provides improved indoor coverage while backhauling the cellular traffic over a broadband connection.” Femtocells are preferred to a Wi-Fi option because the networks are more reliable and they allow wireless providers to keep control over revenue that would otherwise be lost if signals were carried on Wi-Fi.
John Walko, of the EE Times, is reporting that AT&T is currently experimenting with femtocell networks in Charlotte, North Carolina. Sprint has similar testing underway in Denver and Indianapolis.
Blackberry users will no longer have to feel let down by their inability to download music wirelessly. UK-based service provider 7digital and RIM have made good on their promise of an over-the-air music download service for Blackberry. 7digital’s application is now available on the Blackberry App World Store.
The absolutely free app provides access to 7digital’s 6 million track-strong library of DRM-free music. Users can download low-quality tracks when on the move. Such downloads are automatically replaced with high bit-rate tracks (usually 320kbps) when the device is connected to a Wi-Fi network. The majority of tracks and albums are priced at $.77 and $7.77, respectively. Smartphones supported at launch are the BlackBerry Bold, BlackBerry Curve 8900, BlackBerry Tour, BlackBerry Curve 8520 and BlackBerry Storm.