Fontainebleau resorts hook up with Apple

BySteve Friess, Special for USA TODAY

LAS VEGAS -- Fontainebleau Resorts plans to provide an Apple iMac computer in each of the 5,300 rooms at its soon-to-reopen, remodeled Miami flagship and $3 billion hotel-casino being built on the Las Vegas Strip.

The $15 million investment in the sleek 22-inch computers is the marquee feature in an effort to add high-tech touches throughout the resorts, says Fontainebleau majority owner Jeffrey Soffer.

The Macs are Apple's first major venture into the hospitality industry. A handful of small hotels already provide in-room computers, and others have keyboards used for Web access through the TV, but the Fontainebleau effort is on a far grander scale.

Apple hardware and software will be used for the Fontainebleau's online reservation service, automated check-in kiosks and even computerized, touch-screen maps that will personalize directions for users. The computers will be standard in the room and free to guests.

The in-room iMacs also will:

•Be preloaded with music playlists created by celebrities that can be downloaded to iPods or other portable music devices.

•Have an interface for transferring photos from a digital camera to be e-mailed to friends and family.

•Offer digital versions of the guests' hometown newspapers when available.

"We want to create the first paperless hotel room," Soffer says. A spokesman from Apple referred questions to Soffer.

The concept elicited conflicting reactions from faculty at Cornell University's School of Hotel Administration.

"A computer in every hotel room is an amenity whose time has come," says professor Chekitan Dev. He points to a 2005 Harris Interactive survey of 2,400 travelers that showed in-room computers were atop a list of products or services that were "missing from your hotel stay that you would be willing to pay more for."

Dev's colleague, visiting professor Lisa Klein Pearo, is more skeptical: "I'm not convinced that the paperless hotel is a real selling point because people generally like pieces of paper they can carry around with them."

The 54-year-old Fontainebleau in Miami Beach will have about 1,400 rooms when it reopens in early September after a $500 million renovation, and the 63-story Las Vegas resort will have 3,889 suites when it opens in October 2009.

Las Vegas Advisor newsletter publisher Anthony Curtis says the move shows how important business-equipped rooms have become.

"Is this groundbreaking? I don't think really," he says. "Is a good idea? Yes. It will be a good selling point."

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