Microsoft has joined forces with the Starbucks Coffee Company to offer coffee drinkers web access while they sup.

The duo will work with the Mobilestar Network Corporation to install high speed wireless connections in Starbucks’ coffee houses. The chain estimates that 70% of its 4,000 outlets will have the facility within two years.

For a fee customers with laptops or other wireless-compatible devices will be able to connect to the internet, with Microsoft providing content and services via its MSN portal. The technology giant’s chief executive Steven Ballmer added that the service could possibly allow customers to order drinks over the web and then pick them up at a coffee house.

Starbucks chairman Howard Schultz described the venture as “dead-on with the changing lifestyle of our customers”. He went on to deny that the strategy would affect business by encouraging customers to loiter in outlets.

“I don't think we do business based on table turns,” he explained. “Each day we have 14 million customers who visit us at different times of the day, doing different things. Increasingly I'm seeing many of our customers using their PC's at our stores for work, study and enjoyment”.

News source: New York Times