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Google In-Flight WiFi? 52

Google has been trying hard to be break into the Enterprise market, without notable success. The Formtek blog suggests that projects like this week's roll-out of free WiFi in Mountain View blur their focus from areas where they might achieve a higher ROI. Both Boeing's and Verizon's recent announcements of exiting the in-flight WiFi space might be an opportunity for Google to capture more attention from business eyeballs in airports and on-flight.

But highly unlikely.
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Google In-Flight WiFi?

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  • distrust of "?" (Score:5, Insightful)

    by morie ( 227571 ) on Monday September 04, 2006 @09:03AM (#16037298) Homepage
    Never trust a /. article with a question mark in the title

    Next: "Google may enter the console market but most likely not..."
  • Business Model (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 04, 2006 @09:03AM (#16037299)
    Google has been trying hard to be break into the Enterprise market, but still hasn't been successful.
    I think the success of Google has been a very unique and new business model. In fact, this new business model is now one of the things that drives the internet forward making it a profitable tool for many businesses.

    When I think of Enterprise market, I think of more traditional bussiness models such as Product or Service in exchange for money. Google didn't achieve success through this kind of model and that may be a reason why they're having such a hard time breaking into the Enterprise market.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 04, 2006 @09:04AM (#16037304)
    Seriously, we need to be discouraging flying unless it's over oceans. Wifi on the train could go a long ways towards making people even less inclined to use air transport instead of train transport. Even if a train is a little bit slower than a plane, if I can do some work and/or play on the train, I think I would be much more inclined to take it, esp. with the hand luggage debacle currently gripping air travel. Here in Germany where the trains are much faster than most of Amtraks, as far as I know there is no wifi on the ICEs. Last time I went to Japan(in May) there also wasn't any wifi service as far as I know.

    Train wifi should be much easier and cheaper than plane wifi, so why isn't there any interest in it?
    • by hcpxvi ( 773888 )
      Train wifi should be much easier and cheaper than plane wifi, so why isn't there any interest in it?

      Here in the UK (or "Home of the worst railways in Europe" as it is often described) GNER [gner.com] are busy putting Wifi in all their trains. It isn't dazzlingly fast, in fact it feels rather slower than the 225km/h that the trains are supposed to do. And it is only free in first class. Still much more connected than a plane, though.

      • If you sit in (leeds) station, you can download your email from the GNER mallard, write a few replies, then send them when the next service comes through 10mins later :D
    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Plane: approx. 450 mph
      Train: maybe 100? mph ...not slightly slower. And for travel across long distances (a recent trip from Washington to Vegas comes to mind) the train is a non-starter. Three days of travel each way pretty much kills any casino/drinking/eating/loafing time.

      Realize that much air travel isn't aimed at city hopping, but rather getting somewhere more distant.
      • This conversation can go two ways depending what continent you are on (North America or Europe). In the US you are right in Europe you are likely way off. Europe has an efficient train system that goes much faster and people don't have to travel as far (a distance taste test is provided below) to get to the places of interest. That and the fact that European trains can travel about three times as fast as US trains makes all of the difference.

        London to Paris - 289 miles (all google maps)
        London to Rome - 1
      • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        I'm sure if we had a Mag-Lev from Chicago to New York, that was cheaper than flight, and had free Wi-Fi, and took up to two hours longer, people would take that instead of flying. Train seats are more comfortable than airplane seats, they've got a bunch of standard outlets, and plenty more amenities. If we had a true bullet train to make that trip, no more planes would fly from Chicago to New York, simply because those two extra hours the train would take to get there, passengers would instead spend at a
        • it' s pretty prohibitively expensive to build a tunnel of that caliber: Thousands of miles long, under the ocean, and built to sustain a vacuum. But that's a problem for the engineers.

          To paraphrase one of the giants, "Give me enough money, and a bank account to put it in, and I can move the Earth."
          • lolz, that's just ridiculous. imagine a tunnel with the whole Atlantic ocean on top of it. You can't! It would just collapse under the weight. Even if it was made of metal!

            But seriously, airplanes don't have to worry about tectonic plate drift
    • by Yvanhoe ( 564877 )
      Seriously, we need to be discouraging flying unless it's over oceans.

      Ever tried to fly a plane recently ? Security restrictions are driving me insane. Train used to be a pain for transporting luggage, but at least you know it won't be exploded because "someone had a doubt". If it is 2 hours of plane or 4 hours of train (with the additional time for check in in plane, it is frequent) I'll take the train. Less hassle.

      And let's not forget : the prices are not the same.
    • About 7 years ago, I was working in a company doing wifi. We were in talks with local RTD to do wifi on busses. That is where the real money is as far as transportation.
    • I don't think that this is true in the US. Rail is about the same efficiency per passenger as a car: See here for my reference [lafn.org]. Even the new Accela trains are less efficient than an automobile because they are so heavy. Freight is another matter.
      • Article assumes that many of the seats on a train are empty. But then also assumes that all the seats in a car are full. In fact, it assumes that a car has 5 useable (and full) seats and only weighs 2100lbs.

        It baffles me that people write articles like this. Why skew things to prove a point. Make a factual article and find out what the results are as you go along.
        • One of us is misreading the article. Some excerpts:

          Just how heavy are passenger trains? There are various types of trains, some pulled by heavy locomotives and some that are driven by electric motors under each car. The ones pulled by locomotives tend to be very heavy and estimates made from US government data for 1963 (the government ceased collecting such data after that date) indicate about 3.7 tons/passenger. Automobiles are roughly one ton/passenger with an average of 1.6 persons/auto in an auto weig

          • The Acela electric trainsets introduced by Amtrak in the early 21st century, are 2.1 tons/seat. This is ten times higher than that of a lightweight auto.

            That would mean 4200lbs/seat for the train.

            So a lightweight auto would be 420lbs/seat.

            So that's either a 1 seater at 420lbs, 2 at 840, 3 at 1260, 4 at 1680 or 5 at 2100.

            The lightest cars out there are about 2500lbs (Honda Civic) and don't really hold 5.

            A real lightweight car at 2500lbs with 1 person is 1.2 tons/seat. With 2, it's 0.6 tons/seat.

            This may not
            • Cars are twice as efficient as they were in 1975 when CAFE was enacted - SUV's excluded; if you are driving an SUV then the fuel efficiency of planes vs. trains is probably not interesting to you :).

              I agree that the Acela math doesn't add up. But that odd factoid doesn't really affect any of his other math. In any case, the current state of train technology in the US is really sad. I take NJ Transit and Septa sometimes, and they are using 60s-era electric heavy rail complete with conductors walking the ais

    • by KFury ( 19522 ) *
      What a euro-centric point of view. Try living in a country where most air travel is more than 2500 miles per trip. In the US, a Los Angeles to New York train journey takes 36 hours: http://tickets.amtrak.com/itd/amtrak/FareFinder?_ t ripType=OneWay&_origin=LAX&_depmonthyear=2006-09&_ depday=04&_dephourmin=&_destination=NYP&_retmonthy ear=&_retday=&_rethourmin=&_adults=1&_children=0&_ infants=0&_searchBy=schedule&x=18&y=12 [amtrak.com]

      Even if we installed the latest
      • What makes you think I'm not an American? Because I am an American who, by the age of 25 has found jobs in both Germany and Japan. ANd I realize that train travel is slower than air, but you know what? How much imported oil do trains require versus planes? I would love it if the states had a good train system, but they don't and it sucks. I think I will keep my "eurocentric" point of view thank you.
        • by KFury ( 19522 ) *
          Where did I say you weren't American? I said that you had a euro-centric point of view. This is evidenced by your using German examples. As an American I'm sure you can appreciate how different the train systems are in Europe, Japan, and the US.
      • most air travel is more than 2500 miles per trip

        I doubt that. LA to NY is 2700 miles. I'd actually wager that most US domestic air travel is under or up to 1000 miles.

        • by KFury ( 19522 ) *
          You're absolutely right. In fact, it's even less, at 2,460 miles. Most air travel is much shorter, and I apologize for my use of hyperbole.

          That said, the train infrastructure in the US is so much more sparse, and so much slower than in Europe or Asia that I believe my point still stants. With notable exceptions the train system simply isn't up to the task of supplanting air travel in the US without tens of billions of USD along major corridors.

          America's train is the automobile. If it had free wi-fi and no n
    • Why do you propose discouraging flying in favor of rail? Rail is not very practical in the majority of the US as it currently takes several days to cross the country. I'd rather spend the extra 20 minutes it takes to deal with checked baggage then waste 2.5 days in a seat. High speed trains require welded track rail and wider turns, so implementing them coast to coast would require entirely rearranging 3000 miles of track on several different routes. With the low population density of the most of the US
    • by ncc74656 ( 45571 ) *

      Even if a train is a little bit^W^W^Wmuch slower than a plane

      I fixed that for you. It takes maybe seven or eight hours (give or take a bit) to fly across the United States (as little as 5.5 hours if you can score a nonstop flight). A train would most likely take at least three or four days to make the same trip. Even the "high-speed" trains that run in Europe and Japan are less than half as fast as your average twin-turbofan airliner. For the short trips (300 miles or less) where time spent waiting in

  • Google has been trying hard to be break into the Enterprise market

    Last one to Vulcan is a rotten egg!
  • I've learned never to discount possibilities, and Google employing WiFi somewhere other than Mountain View seems like a possibility. However...

    Doing anything with moving vehicles costs real money, and no more so than with airplanes, where the coverage has to be extremely broad, and the RF issues and internet routing are non-trivial. There's a reason why Boeing got out of the business: they couldn't make it cost effective. It's not that people don't want to send and receive mail periodically in the air, but they sure as heck don't do it in huge numbers at the price Connexion could deliver.

    Furthermore, there is an entrenched base in airports. Typically in the US it's a company like T-Mobile who *do* offer decent service at attractive rates. And what do people do when they get to their airport and jack in? They connect to their VPNs. So it's not like Google can even insert ads in that sort of environment or provide searching or what have you. So sure, they could offer a service, but it's got to go head to head with others with little technical advantage, if any, and perhaps some disadvantage, such as lack fo bilateral aggregation agreements.

    So, I look forward to more good stuff from Google, but let's keep reality in sight.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Au contraire. I think it would be really easy. JetBlue already has a directv dish on the plane, which means they can pump IP over it. (direct view, or something like that). It might be as trivial as sticking a linksys box to their directv receiver.
      • by iritant ( 156271 )
        Direct TV bandwidth is ammortized over millions of people and I'll bet there are few if any handoffs.
    • Boeing likely got out of the business because the possibility of people not being allowed to "carry-on" their laptops due to security guidelines.
    • Doing anything with moving vehicles costs real money

      Here is an example of an off-the-shelf broadband solution for emergency services, a commercial trucker or the ultimate RV: Magellan Ground Control [groundcontrol.com] Priced from $4500-$6600 US. The dish deploys and sets up in about five minutes. Instant Hotspot. But you must be parked. Coverage extends deep into northern Canada, Alaska and northern Mexico.

  • How is Google going to make money out of this? By "charging" people?

    Sure I can get some work done in-flight, but what with the Captain asking you to switch off all electronic equipment, 3 hour battery life of my laptop and my company prohibiting VPN access over unsecure wifi network, that work will be very little to matter. I am not sure I would shell out money for that. The work won't be worth even the reimbursement request.

    • They're hoping they'll get a lot of people googling for the likes of "747 left wing loud creaking". They'll make the money serving insurance advertisements.
    • How is Google going to make money out of this?

      Existing businesses benefit any time they hold back the expansion of their competitors.

      New businesses can have prohibitively high costs of entry which Google doesn't have.
      Small businesses are stifled w.r.t. emerging markets; they can be wiped out on a whim.

      Huge businesses can profit with different methods than places with 25-99 employees.

    • by k2r ( 255754 )
      > my company prohibiting VPN access over unsecure wifi network

      That's interesting.
      Why does you company have a VPN? To connect various units in different cities?

      • VPN is mainly used by employees to connect to the company network. The network between office campuses is over dedicated lines. They allow VPN connection over wired networks, its the wireless networks they are afraid of (I don't know why).
  • That's all we need is a plane full of people talking on the phone in flight.
  • Google has been trying hard to be break into the Enterprise market

    Really? By having nearly every product in a perpetual Beta state? pssh.

    • by dmdb ( 937749 )
      Quite, this is unfortunatly Google's big problem and one which is increasingly annoying about them as a company from a user perspective. It seems they simply cannot finish a product and instead get bored and go off and start another one. G-Mail, three odd years old and still in beta. While they maintain this attitude there are unlikely to be any enterprise customers for a while!
  • This is a wild wet dream of the poster.

    I wish I could give -1 "Editor with too much free time" to this "article"....
  • With a decent connection and a good torrent, you could have Snakes on a Plane on a plane.

    Not entirely suitable material, I think you'll all agree.
  • Google building shuttles, flies to Mars?
    Google cure cancer?
    Google invent a time machine?
    Google change colors in their logo?
    Google release Google Vista?
    Google give up search engine business and start building zoos? With pandas? But not regular pandas, but genetically modified pink pandas?

    No. They just don't. But we can play "make up a news totally out of the blue" some more if you have more time to waste.
  • Why not?

    1. Google has buckets of cash
    2. That "Do no evil" motto
    3. From California, where lots of fresh veggies come from
    4. Is a great feel-good product that everyone will love
    5. Has their tres fabu in-house chefs (don't they get 20% own project time?)
    6. With their marketing skills Google could totally dominate the salad spinner market in no time!
    7. Could recoup expenses by printing targetted ads on the salad spinners. Or... e-ink controlled by WiFi showing Flash ads!

    Hey, it is reasonable as many of the other I-

  • But highly unlikely.

    In-flight WiFi highly unlikely?? Get it? Highly unlikely? In-flight?


You can measure a programmer's perspective by noting his attitude on the continuing viability of FORTRAN. -- Alan Perlis