If you haven't been watching closely, you might not have noticed that Wi-Fi hotspots (public areas with Wi-Fi connections) are sprouting up everywhere. Businesses have recognized the demand for wireless access where people congregate, and many laptops now have built-in Wi-Fi. Wireless networks are becoming almost as prevalent as ATMs.
A few years ago, Wi-Fi was typically found in larger corporations, and even then only in those that were on the cutting edge. But then something changed. Computer manufacturers such as Dell and Apple decided that they'd make 802.11 wireless networking capabilities either an option or standard on every machine they sold. This move, coupled with Microsoft's building Wi-Fi support into Windows, jump-started the "wireless movement." Promotions for Wi-Fi access started popping up in TV commercials, in the airport, at hotels, and even in local coffee shops.
And then Starbucks percolated the idea of teaming up with T-Mobile, an Internet Service Provider, to bring wireless access (and vanilla lattes) to its thousands of stores and millions of customers. Realizing the moneymaking potential of hotspots, other fast-food establishments soon climbed onto the "lure them in with access" bandwagon. Most notable was McDonald's, which announced in 2003 that it would add Wi-Fi to its menu.