Aircell's cached video solution, first revealed by RWG in December 2008, is starting to garner some mainstream media attention.
A good thing too, since the solution - dubbed the 'Aircell Video Client' - appears to be a clever tool in Aircell's shed, and a good way to use that 1 terabyte of server storage already on board Gogo-equipped aircraft!
During the World Airline Entertainment Association (WAEA) conference and exhibition in Palm Springs, California, Aircell director, product and platform management Eric Lemond was kind enough to give me a demo of the Aircell Video Client, an iTunes-like application that is easy to navigate and intuitive.
Key paraphrased pars from Lemond:
"This is going to figure out what you like. It gives an airline the ability to touch its passengers in a way they've never before been able to. In-flight entertainment (IFE) is not personal today. It doesn't know you or the guy next to you. [If you download the Gogo Video Client] and you've been watching The Office television show, then we'll probably recommend The Office the next time you use the service.
"Once you find what you want, the Aircell Video Client will download the program quickly. You can buy a movie in the air, but you can finish downloading - and watching the video - on the ground if you chose. You can track the progress of your download, and you can queue up other shows for download. A button in the system will let you launch an instant message [chat] with one of the support representatives and help you out if you need it. If you wanted to do email at the same time as watching a show, you can. We're going to make people aware of this service before they fly."
Computer World is reporting that users could pay about $2 to $4 for a television show or movie. However, an Aircell spokesman today told me that the price range being studied by Aircell is actually from $2.99 to $5.99. By contrast, Virgin America, which offers passengers a very robust in-seat IFE system, rents newer titles for $8 apiece and classics for $6.
So, what carriers are likely to offer the Aircell Video Client? AirTran Airways has already told me it is interested in the cached offering, despite the fact that its average flight is less than 2hr in length.
I'd imagine American Airlines, part of the merged Delta/Northwest fleet, and the likes of United Airlines and US Airways would make good candidates for the service (I mean, why the heck not?)
Continental Airlines, which will offer Gogo on 21 Boeing 757s, is already equipping its Boeing domestic fleet with JetBlue subsidiary LiveTV's third generational live television product (a service that costs $6 to access).
Air Canada, which is currently offering Gogo on some transborder flights, already offers a brilliant IFE system. But who knows? Maybe some of these carriers will see the Aircell Video Client as a 'nice to have' if it doesn't bastardize their current products (and if they stand to generate sweet revenue from the deal).
As for Virgin America, one has to wonder if the San Francisco-based carrier needs to offer anything more than this?