JetBlue’s revolutionary in-flight Wi-Fi solution? Satellites

CHICAGO - OCTOBER 26:  A JetBlue Airways jet sits on the tarmac at O'Hare Airport October 26, 2006 in Chicago, Illinois. JetBlue today announced the start of service to the city. The airline will service New York's JFK Airport and Long Beach Airport from Chicago.  (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Wait, what? That was exactly my response when I first read the news that JetBlue was introducing new technology for in-flight Wi-Fi service, a new technology called a satellite. For those of you who can’t detect sarcasm, satellites aren’t new. They’ve been around a very long time. For some reason, it has taken this long for an airline to use satellite signals to deliver Wi-Fi access on a plane. Airlines currently offering Wi-Fi services get their signal from the ground.

Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s great that this is becoming more widespread. I don’t fly often, but when I do it certainly would be nice to keep up on some reading or even do a little bit of work. This serves to prove, though, just how in-the-box many industries are when it comes to modernizing their services. You’re 35,000 feet up with a clear shot at the upper atmosphere – why in god’s name would you use anything other than a satellite?

Starbucks catches on to every indie coffee house, releases free Wi-Fi

Starbucks coffee mug.

There were few things that frustrated me about Starbucks quite as much as its Wi-Fi policy. There was the weird smell, the pervasive corporate atmosphere, the hipsterier-than-thou baristas, but none of it really held a candle to the fact that I had to pay for Wi-Fi if I was in a Starbucks.

It looks like the coffee chain has finally caught on and will be rolling out free Wi-Fi for all customers starting July 1. The catch (you knew there would be one)? Starbucks will be using the service to roll out all sorts of targeted media trash for your unsolicited enjoyment.

Really, it probably won’t be so bad. There won’t be any advertising, just free versions of Starbucks-approved WSJ, NYT and other publishers’ content. You’ll get access to the Starbucks iTunes download of the week as well.

Is Wi-Fi the answer to AT&T’s network problems

Times Sqaure.AT&T has a revolutionary and imaginative solution to its network congestion problems in places like NYC: Wi-Fi. Okay, so it’s neither revolutionary or imaginative, but it could actually work.

AT&T plans to rollout free Wi-Fi across Times Square as a test bed for traffic offloading. The idea is that all those crazy people stomping around one of the most active city hubs will use the Wi-Fi network to upload pictures and Facebook posts and shoot off emails to mom and dad about their visit to the Big Apple, instead of relying on AT&T 3G. The result would be thousands of gigs of data traversing a much wider pipeline, giving you the chance to, I dunno, make a reliable phone call for a change.

The only thing is, the network has to actually work. I can see this thing getting a solid rollout and then bombing, which will undoubtedly result in a big data push as angry users send their rants to Facebook, Twitter, and WordPress accounts, all back on the old 3G pipeline. Done right, though, this could be a huge boost to congested network performance. Remind me again, why did it take until 2010 for this become a reality?

Photo from: Declan McCullagh

First round of iPads are sold out

iPad.This weekend brought an interesting surprise for anyone attempting to purchase themselves a nifty, new, Wi-Fi iPad. It’s sold out. You can still buy it, of course, but the ship date isn’t April 3rd anymore. It’s April 12th. In-store pickup has been removed as a shipping method as well.

This is a big deal for Apple’s new device. I’m still standing behind the statement that no one really knows what it does. Yes, the promise of apps and the advent of a color ereader are nice, but $500 is a lot for that promise. Will it be that much better than a laptop? We’ll have to see.

Most estimates put the sold-out round of iPads around 500,000. That’s a crapload of units, especially considering that none of them have 3G. I know some people aren’t expecting big 3G sales, but I’d bet the nerds of the world will pick up a 3G unit for the just-in-case insurance. There’s really not a compelling reason to not get one and plenty of reasons for it. Remember, there are no contracts, so you can grab a month of service whenever you need it.

Source: 9to5 Mac

In-flight Wi-Fi becomes more popular, bans certain services

In-flight Wi-Fi.In-flight wi-fi is getting a lot more popular, as in popular enough for mass consumption. Unfortunately, that also means airlines are trying to anticipate all the ways wi-fi can be used for evil as much as it can be used to make money. It’s unfortunate because really they have no idea what they’re doing.

Take the case of John Battelle, a happy father on a recent United Airlines flight who just wanted to say goodnight to his kids. He jumped on video chat and was promptly approached by a stewardess who told him that in-flight video chat is illegal. Illegal. Why? The terrorists of course. They could use it to coordinate an attack, you know, since video chat is the only way to communicate in-flight. Email definitely wouldn’t work. Neither would AIM. Twitter. Facebook. Ya know, I’ll stop there. No reason to beat this thing into the ground.

Here’s an excerpt from Battelle’s blog:

So what’s a curious guy to do? To the Internet! Which is exactly what I did. Responses starting pouring in. Including one from a pal at the State Department, who echoed my basic goal: To use video chat to tuck my kids into bed isn’t a crime. Or at least, shouldn’t be.

The flight attendant just showed me the United policy manual which prohibits “two way devices” from communicating with the ground. However, the PLANE HAS WIFI. To combat this, not unlike China, United and other airlines have blocked Skype and other known video chat offenders. Apparently, they missed Apple iChat. Oops.

Oops, indeed. You can bet this will be an ongoing battle between the airlines, our government, and the consumers, most of whom are under the impression that airlines screw them in every way possible.

Source: Battelle Media

Apple pulls Wi-Fi detectors from the App Store

iPhone Wi-Fi detector.In yet another App Store obliteration, Wi-Fi detection apps have been pulled from the App Store without exception. The word from Apple is that these apps, the type that actively scan for wireless networks, use “private frameworks” to locate hotspots, which is a violation of Apple’s terms of use.

“We received a very unfortunate email today from Apple stating that WiFi Where has been removed from sale on the App Store for using private frameworks to access wireless information,” said one developer. Apple declined to say more about the removal.

I think it’s odd that Apple would start to rigorously enforce rules without explanation when so many applications continue to slip through the cracks. The most obvious example is the “titillating content” Apple barred not so long ago, though exceptions were made for both Playboy and Sports Illustrated. As The Register points out, it could be Apple is attempting to streamline everything for the iPad launch, that perhaps the tools to make these apps work won’t be available on the tablet. Even then, why all the secrecy? Why not just say, “we don’t want people exploiting certain parts of our devices for personal use.”

iPhone lands in China missing Wi-Fi

iPhone China Unicom.The iPhone touched down in China this past Friday night missing one big feature: Wi-Fi. China’s second largest mobile carrier, China Unicom, has an exclusive three-year deal with Apple to sell the phone.

Starting out sales might not be the runaway figures Apple saw in the US. After all, it’s not that tough to get phones from other markets. Phones that include Wi-Fi. There have also been rumors that China Unicom hopes to sell Wi-Fi capable phones within a few months, giving Chinese consumers even more reason to hold off on buying one now.

There was still a modicum of Apple fanaticism to be had, though. The country’s first iPhone owner, Zhi Xianzhong, waited almost eight hours to buy the phone.