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.
I tried Connexion during a Lufthansa flight to Germany last year. The connection worked perfectly and it was a fast surfing experience. The problem was that I was sitting in economy class and had absolutely no room to actually work on the computer. It is one thing to use a laptop on a plane to watch a DVD. But it is almost impossible to actually type on the keyboard and get stuff done even if the guy in front of you hasn’t yet lowered his seat dangerously close to your crotch. I basically had to put the laptop monitor on my legs and put the keyboard against my belly. It looked more like I was playing accordion than working on a computer.
A look at an overview of airline seat dimensions shows that there are very few airlines who offer a little bit of comfort for economy class passengers. As long as there is no room to actually properly use a computer for work, and make onboard Internet usage useful and fun, it doesn’t really matter how expensive the service is or how much trouble airlines have to go through to install a service like Connexion. To make a service like this work, it is not enough to win over the business class.