Why did Boeing’s wifi service die?

Three words: Lack of power.

I flew SAS flight to Copenhagen 1.5 years ago and paid my $30. But I could only use the Wifi service for two hours because my laptop’s battery wouldn’t last longer than that.

Om Malik opines that this is a time when listening to early adopters didn’t pay off.

Sorry, normal people will do without wifi if they have to pay $30 for two hours.

But, I was talking with some of Microsoft’s Dynamics managers and employees a few months back. That team does a LOT of travel back to Copenhagen. You’d think they would be very active users of the wifi.

I was suprised to learn that they enjoyed the 10 hours “off the grid” where their employees and managers couldn’t talk with them.

Anyway, what killed this was cost. When I met with the Connextion team they told me it costs hundreds of thousands of dollars to outfit a single plane with wifi.

The profit margins in the airline industry are razor-thin, if they exist at all (many domestic airlines are losing money) so there was no way they would invest in something like this, especially in the face of rising fuel prices.

I’m sad to see it go.

Comments

  1. I will be sad to see it go as well. I only got to use it once, on a cross country to Stanford (for When 2.0, I think). It worked well, and I had four extra batteries. So I got my $30 worth.

    Something will replace it, I am sure. It’s not a matter of IF, but WHEN.

    Rob

  2. I will be sad to see it go as well. I only got to use it once, on a cross country to Stanford (for When 2.0, I think). It worked well, and I had four extra batteries. So I got my $30 worth.

    Something will replace it, I am sure. It’s not a matter of IF, but WHEN.

    Rob

  3. It’s unfortunate, because Boeing was marketing it to the ocean shipping community too, who really could use all that Wi-Fi (imagine being at sea for WEEKS — that’s when a live Internet connection would be handy). But the death of the airborne component seems to have killed the marine one as well. Plus they were having trouble keeping the transceivers working well with all the salt water etc. Pity. It would have been good for our business.

  4. It’s unfortunate, because Boeing was marketing it to the ocean shipping community too, who really could use all that Wi-Fi (imagine being at sea for WEEKS — that’s when a live Internet connection would be handy). But the death of the airborne component seems to have killed the marine one as well. Plus they were having trouble keeping the transceivers working well with all the salt water etc. Pity. It would have been good for our business.

  5. Did it cost them that much coz they were modifying existing planes?
    If they integrate it during the production of a new plane, it has to be consistently lower.

    Boeing should make provisions for future designs.

  6. Did it cost them that much coz they were modifying existing planes?
    If they integrate it during the production of a new plane, it has to be consistently lower.

    Boeing should make provisions for future designs.

  7. When airlines all start to offer mobile phone access on the plane, the first one to ban it and advertiser with “No phones… no WiFi… no worries. Get off the grid with SnookAir” will reap a whole lot of money.

  8. When airlines all start to offer mobile phone access on the plane, the first one to ban it and advertiser with “No phones… no WiFi… no worries. Get off the grid with SnookAir” will reap a whole lot of money.

  9. [...] My boss has asked me to provide a short summary of articles that discuss how multi-tasking erodes productivity. Apparently my boss is in a group that sets the direction for “mobility” in the organisation. He’d like to demonstrate to the rest of the group that always-on isn’t the best approach. This came out of a discussion we had talking about Scoble’s article “Why did Boeing’s wifi service die“. Specifically his comment: But, I was talking with some of Microsoft’s Dynamics managers and employees a few months back. That team does a LOT of travel back to Copenhagen. You’d think they would be very active users of the wifi. [...]

  10. Are you doing re-runs because it’s summer?

    ttp://scobleizer.wordpress.com/2006/06/23/wifi-in-planes-horrible-business/

  11. Physics defeated – energy created…

    I listened to the RTE news at lunchtime today with interest as they interviewed the owner of Irish Tech firm Steorn who claimed to have stumbled upon a method of creating energy using magnetics. Even as the news reporter said,…

  12. Are you doing re-runs because it’s summer?

    ttp://scobleizer.wordpress.com/2006/06/23/wifi-in-planes-horrible-business/

  13. [...] Of course I wasn’t happy that Boeing cancelled its plans for in-flight Internet access, and on reflection, I wonder how much of a trial it actually got. I have never been offered Internet on a domestic flight, and had it been offered, there’s no doubt I would have taken it, as long as the price wasn’t too unreasonable. I’ve never even heard of anyone using Internet on domestic flights. Only on a few international flights, and as Scoble says, without power, it was good for two hours. I don’t doubt that Scoble would have used it. Considering how many laptops and cell phones you see on flights these days, I really doubt they know that it wouldn’t be profitable.   [...]

  14. Off-grid is right.

    My view: Don’t trust what people say; trust to what they do.

    Market research said there was a big market for this service, with In-Stat saying 44% of those surveyed said that they would be interested in Wi-Fi on airplanes.

    But user actions suggest otherwise. Note how Verizon cancelled its AirFone service for similar reasons: The phones are idle. And it may not be just about price.

    If you watch people on airplanes, you might gather that the following activities are highly valued and popular, but might not rate in surveys:

    *Snooze
    *Booze
    *Eat
    *Watch movie
    *Listen to iPod
    *Daydream

    More detail on Connexion’s Disruption Score at:

    http://www.ondisruption.com/my_weblog/2006/08/boeing_pulls_pl.html

  15. Off-grid is right.

    My view: Don’t trust what people say; trust to what they do.

    Market research said there was a big market for this service, with In-Stat saying 44% of those surveyed said that they would be interested in Wi-Fi on airplanes.

    But user actions suggest otherwise. Note how Verizon cancelled its AirFone service for similar reasons: The phones are idle. And it may not be just about price.

    If you watch people on airplanes, you might gather that the following activities are highly valued and popular, but might not rate in surveys:

    *Snooze
    *Booze
    *Eat
    *Watch movie
    *Listen to iPod
    *Daydream

    More detail on Connexion’s Disruption Score at:

    http://www.ondisruption.com/my_weblog/2006/08/boeing_pulls_pl.html

  16. I guess the market for Wifi in air is still nascent. But if you consider the bans on laptops and other portable devices onborad planes, this will be a boost. Just imagine renting a laptop on board with wifi access, It wouldnt be too late before you see a new product in this space.

  17. I guess the market for Wifi in air is still nascent. But if you consider the bans on laptops and other portable devices onborad planes, this will be a boost. Just imagine renting a laptop on board with wifi access, It wouldnt be too late before you see a new product in this space.

  18. That is a real big shame one of the reasons I used the Copenhagen to Seattle flight with SAS was because of the wifi access. I used it to view tv over the slingbox and to not go mad over the 10 hours flight. I just wonder why the flights are always so bad on the return flight…not everyone sleeps and now you will not even be able to surf. Seems a real shame.

  19. That is a real big shame one of the reasons I used the Copenhagen to Seattle flight with SAS was because of the wifi access. I used it to view tv over the slingbox and to not go mad over the 10 hours flight. I just wonder why the flights are always so bad on the return flight…not everyone sleeps and now you will not even be able to surf. Seems a real shame.

  20. Connexion died because it wasn’t profitable. The tech community is not broad enough to keep the product operating in the black. Today, no airline, expect those that are hiding behing bankruptcy, can afford to underwrite money losers. Several years ago, a colleague spent the better part of 18 months pushing an initiative dubbed “Aircraft Automation”. (lot’s of no brainer applications integrated for the inflight environment). All he has to show for it today is some classy power point slides. Sad, but true. It’s all about money.

  21. Connexion died because it wasn’t profitable. The tech community is not broad enough to keep the product operating in the black. Today, no airline, expect those that are hiding behing bankruptcy, can afford to underwrite money losers. Several years ago, a colleague spent the better part of 18 months pushing an initiative dubbed “Aircraft Automation”. (lot’s of no brainer applications integrated for the inflight environment). All he has to show for it today is some classy power point slides. Sad, but true. It’s all about money.

  22. I agree that it’s sometimes nice to get off the grid.

    On the power problem, British Airways offers a neat power point (only business and 1st class, sadly) that requires an expensive little adapter, which is well worth it if you fly a lot. Virgin Atlantic also provides power at every seat in Upper Class. So when your start-up is a huge financial success…

  23. I agree that it’s sometimes nice to get off the grid.

    On the power problem, British Airways offers a neat power point (only business and 1st class, sadly) that requires an expensive little adapter, which is well worth it if you fly a lot. Virgin Atlantic also provides power at every seat in Upper Class. So when your start-up is a huge financial success…

  24. [...] Boeing announced that it will shut down its inflight Internet service Connexion, which allowed passengers on a number of airlines to surf the Web during flights (via CNN). Boeing says the market for the service didn’t materialize. Scoble thinks that 30 bucks was too expensive for two hours of service. I think it probably failed for a different reason: space. [...]

  25. The solution is to just let us use our phones, you can at least get coverage some of the time (spending the take-off, landing taxying time online would be enough for me). Seems too logical (there is no real threat to in-flight systems, if a phone can take down a plane then they wouldn’t be letting us board with them, considering now that even water is banned)

  26. The solution is to just let us use our phones, you can at least get coverage some of the time (spending the take-off, landing taxying time online would be enough for me). Seems too logical (there is no real threat to in-flight systems, if a phone can take down a plane then they wouldn’t be letting us board with them, considering now that even water is banned)

  27. The only flights I did on SAS were in business, there was 110 V power at the seats. 10 hours Wifi for $30 was cheaper than than the service at Copenhagen airport. Ironically the service came from Boeing and SAS fly Airbus A340s to Seattle.

    BA Sold me their £75 adapter to convert 12V to 110 on their flights, which is one more power adapter as if I don’t carry enough of those

    The work I could do on the plane was worth more than the price of the ticket – and I would only work Europe to the US and sleep the other way.

    Even so, it was clear that not enough people paid the $30 to get back the investment.

  28. The only flights I did on SAS were in business, there was 110 V power at the seats. 10 hours Wifi for $30 was cheaper than than the service at Copenhagen airport. Ironically the service came from Boeing and SAS fly Airbus A340s to Seattle.

    BA Sold me their £75 adapter to convert 12V to 110 on their flights, which is one more power adapter as if I don’t carry enough of those

    The work I could do on the plane was worth more than the price of the ticket – and I would only work Europe to the US and sleep the other way.

    Even so, it was clear that not enough people paid the $30 to get back the investment.

  29. Boeing boo-boo

    On July 17, 2006, Boeing announced the discontinuation of its in-flight “hi-speed” internet service. A quick analysis of the business model shows that this dodo bird was doomed to extinction before it took its first flight.

  30. I know I’ll miss it when it is gone… here it is Nov 12 and I am sitting on UA 8851 PDX->FRA and still got an IP address …I’d be willing to pay a lot more than 26 bucks for internet enroute for sure..ok, back to working on my blog : kevinclosson.wordpress.com

  31. I know I’ll miss it when it is gone… here it is Nov 12 and I am sitting on UA 8851 PDX->FRA and still got an IP address …I’d be willing to pay a lot more than 26 bucks for internet enroute for sure..ok, back to working on my blog : kevinclosson.wordpress.com

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