Yesterday I had the story about United Airlines' plans to offer email from the friendly skies, suggesting that they were making the same mistake they made with Airfones and charging prices that were way too high. Alan Reiter has tracked down a lot more information on this issue, and it turns out that United's press release was terribly misleading - in a way that could harm plenty of potential emailing business. It's not a total of 2k that a user gets - it's 2k per email. Any email you send or receive that's greater than that gets charged the additional fees. Okay, that's slightly better, but still seems pretty pricey. 2k is not a very long email by any means. Glenn Fleishman at WiFi Networking News points out another reason why this is likely to fail. The system doesn't let you download emails to your own email client. You have to use a proprietary Tenzing client - which accesses your email server. They do this to decrease the bandwidth, since the Tenzing client strips out images and other high bandwidth items. However, as Glenn points out, most large corporate email systems (the types from companies that would be willing to expense such things) will never let such a non-VPN'ed foreign email client access its mail server. That basically knocks out their target market. Offering very limited solutions at high prices isn't going to appeal to many people. I realize that offering internet in the sky is a more difficult proposition, but it appears that a much more complete offering is possible (such as from Connexion). Spending a little more to offer a lot more would go much further in this case.
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