Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Come Fly With Me

Almost a year ago we wrote about the testing of Internet services in planes by JetBlue Airlines. Last month an American Airlines flight from JFK to Los Angeles started testing high-speed, in-flight Internet access to its flyers. Yesterday Delta Air Lines announced that it will soon start rolling out broadband Wi-Fi access for its entire domestic mainline fleet of more than 330 planes. The Delta access will cost $9.95 on flights of three hours or less and $12.95 on flights of more than three hours and Delta expects Wi-Fi to be available on all its domestic mainline planes by the summer of 2009.

Passengers with wireless devices will be able to access Aircell's ‘air to ground’ broadband network, called GoGo, but voice services will be barred due to federal regulations. In 2006 Aircell won an FCC auction of a thin sliver of spectrum of 3 megahertz split between up and down directions and capable of carrying up to 2 or 3 Mbps. Obviously the bandwidth is not huge and could soon be stretched but it’s a start and literally starts to open up the airways. The service is intended to be continuous handing off connectivity among towers Aircell has equipped across the US.

American has stated that it will not block or filter content while others such as Lufthansa have initially requested it and found it totally impractical as it blocked legitimate as well as targeted web sites.

Smartphone users might have an issue with Gogo as many Smartphone that include both cellular and Wi-Fi radios let the user use these selectively. However, as we previously wrote this week, due to the low life expectancy of the devices, Smartphone manufactures have the ability to quickly adopt to market demands.
As with many mobile technologies the US and Europe go their different ways. In Europe, Air France and RyanAir are testing a different system from OnAir.

The final issue is one that the airlines themselves control – their tiered class system. First class and business will no doubt get the facilities as standard but economy may be restricted to limited seats and this may be very relivant where a power connection is required on a longer flight as no only are these outlets often limited but they require a power adaptor.

We have written about the book being the ideal holiday reader and capable of surviving the riggers of the beach, pool and rays. The next marketing push for the current ebook readers was air travel. Well that looks like it may also be slipping away. Yes you can preload books and read them on a plane but let’s get real and ask how many people seriously read more than one book during a flight? The interesting position is the difference between the Smartphone and Kindle approach and the more traditional ebook services. If you wish to download a book in flight this appears to be both possible and practical in the near future and in the case of a laptop, Smartphone or Kindle it will go direct to the device. However the Sony works through an ‘umbilical cord’ tethered to Adobe Digital Editions and this starts to blow this download model out of the water.

WE take laptops and Smartphones on planes today and would enjoy having full connectivity and access to information and content but would we want to be taking a laptop, a ebook reader and a Smartphone onboard? We don’t think so.
Digital Publishing is not about ebooks and the current readers its about publishing, content and markets.

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