I would think that having internet access would change the pub experience greatly. I am not sure if for good or bad; consider here in the US the proliferation of coffee shops that provide free wifi and yet still make money and still have people meeting and interacting just like before.
If you have a smart phone you don't need the wifi to send connect to the internet. I do think combining beer and wifi may lead to some "interesting" texts.
When I am traveling and need to go online with a laptop I will find a Starbuck's, but I am not meeting and interacting with people, I am working.
Well, the real questions should involve productivity.
If engineers start bringing their laptops to the Pub for lunch, what happens to design cycles? The extra hour gained with ability to perform circuit design during lunch should be a bit of a boost in productivity. However, at some point the consumption of beer will begin the negate that extra productivity.
Would all facets of electronic design be affected equally? For example, is it possible that circuit design would be negatively impacted but layout positively affected? Would analog design take a bigger hit than digital? Software more than hardware?
I suggest a detailed research program to characterize the effects of varying amount of beer on the set of electronics design sub-disciplines. Once the study is complete, an industry association could publish guidelines, perhaps in the form of a new ISO standard, recommending specific pub-based WiFi utilization time and accompanying beer consumption volumes for the maximum increase in productivity.
Duane, there's a similar technique used in solar inverters - MPPT. You could call your version the Maximum Pub Productivity Theorem..???
(and if you want volunteers for your study, put my name down please!)
There are two reasons why I go to the pub: either for a meal (or occasionally just a drink) with my family or to have a beer with the boys. Neither need a wifi connection. However, pubs in the UK are closing at an alarming rate (possibly due to alcohol becoming increasingly cheap in supermarkets or perhaps the smoking ban). So, if having wifi in a pub means that it can attract a new type of customer and that makes it less likely to close, I'm all for it.
Actually - another thought. The "beer with the boys" also involves doing a quiz. Pub quizzes are common in the UK, but I suspect also peculiar to the UK. A wifi connection would make it easier for OTHER teams to cheat, of course...
Whether it is pubs or coffee houses the scene has definitely changed from a gossiping place to a Texting place. Even when groups of friends meet to have a gossip they are actually exchanging latest jokes and pictures over Bluetooth enabled mobiles.
jackOMT appears to have singled it out. With all the pubs closing, this is merely another way to get customers inside. Coffee shops in North America have been doing this to provide a more inviting atmosphere for awhile now. It seems natural that pubs in the UK would eventually do the same.
The only downside is that it accelerates the 'heads down' mentality. People are already slaves to their devices and free wifi will decrease their inhibitions to send just one more message. Have you ever dealt with one of these people? Face to face conversations are stopped mid-sentence to check their phones. Meetings are interrupted by the clackity clack of text messaging. Our need to be connected to others have created a socity of disconnected people (Whoa, now that's deep).
I'll admit I'd use the wifi to settle a bar room argument (ie who was the lead striker of the Premier League in the 1992 season?), but then again, I probably use my data plan to settle the argument as well. I only use my phone for convenience but others treat it as a necessity.
All this talk has made me thirsty, see you at the pub ... I'll be the one with my phone in my pocket ... having a real conversation ... with real people ... face to face ... what a novel concept.
I have a cousin that long made his living in Las Vegas running a set of game machines (think Tetris, not slots) in bars. Customers with lowered inhibitions can be very appealing to vendors in this casual gaming market. I see this as a logical extension to that market. Some bars might even set up default home pages to try to trap some of that revenue.