Gogo launches in-air multimedia platform, details international expansion plans

It's at least six months behind schedule at this point, but we guess late's better than even later. We'd known that Aircell Gogo (yeah, it's officially changed!) was aiming to get into the in-flight entertainment business, and today it's dishing the real dirt. It's hoping to "extend the company beyond internet connectivity," and apparently that means introducing an in-air multimedia platform. Per the company, it'll allow users to tap into "real-time travel information, destination content, news / information and exclusive shopping deals" right within their web browser, and it'll also give airlines the opportunity to offer passengers access to the latest movies and TV shows through Gogo's new streaming video product. We're guessing that last bit is what'll make legacy outfits think twice before shelling out for another round of Panasonic in-seat head units, particularly since there's no air-to-ground connectivity needed.

Even today, average JPEGs are compressed when downloaded and uploaded through Gogo, making it just about impossible for folks who actually work with images to get anything finalized in the sky. Upon hearing of its initial plans, we wondered one thing: if Gogo can't handle uncompressed JPEGs, how the heck is your streaming video going to look with every other middle-seater trying to load the latest episode of Weeds? Thankfully, our fears were pushed aside after hearing that the IFE portion (read: the service that serves up multimedia) will be locally based on the plane, with an undisclosed protocol pushing material from the cockpit to your display. Executives confirmed that the goal is to serve an entire plane, but it sounds as if there will certainly be some limits in place at first -- though, unless the entire plane hops onboard with the new program on Day 1, it probably won't become an issue.

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It's a fairly interesting concept. On one hand, we're elated to hear that an already constrained pipe won't be further pressured by streaming video from the ground, but assuming that folks will a) have a laptop with enough battery power to last through a movie marathon and b) folks in coach will have enough room to actually take advantage seems like somewhat of a stretch. For those wondering about usability on short flights, we're told that users will have 24 hours to pick up where they left off if a film gets cut short due to flight time -- a genuinely nice solution, we must say. Of course, pricing remains a mystery; execs briefly displayed a beta window with a few $3.99 price tags during today's webcast, but they were quick to point out that they're still playing around with figures to get it right. The good news is that some content will be gratis, and they shouldn't have to try too hard to best the $6 that Delta charges for a flick today.

Beyond content, the forthcoming Gogo landing page will also enable passengers to engage in games, magazines, podcasts and shopping -- most of which will be free to access and won't require a live Gogo internet connection. If it hasn't been made abundantly clear by now, Gogo's aiming to become a one-stop in-flight entertainment destination, and from what we've seen, it's well on its way to accomplishing just that. When asked about working with partners that are already heavily invested in in-seat panels (read: Virgin America), they seemed to think that both could exist in parallel, at least for now. Being frank, execs stated that they didn't think in-seat modules were "long for this world," but given that we're still flying around on birds built before the birth of the Pope... well, you catch our drift.

The company's currently beta testing things with American Airlines, and it confessed that Delta wouldn't be too far behind. As for the rest? It's hoping to get all of its existing domestic partners onboard by Q1 2012, and with that, it's probably appropriate to mention Gogo's international aspirations. To date, there's really only one way to get connected when flying from NYC to Berlin, and it's on Lufthansa. Thankfully, execs in today's press event affirmed that it's working diligently to find a connectivity solution for intercontinental flights, and moreover, there's no real hindrance to offering just entertainment solutions on offline 777s heading from LAX to SYD. They stopped short of confirming, but they definitely insinuated that they'd consider selling the streaming IFE solution as a separate beast.

So, looks like the future of in-flight entertainment starts this winter -- bring your batteries!

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Gogo Soars to Unexplored Heights with New, In-air Multimedia Platform

New platform to offer engaging flight, destination, e-commerce, video, gaming and news experience for travelers in-air, online

ITASCA, Ill., July 15, 2011 – Gogo today announced plans to launch a new, in-air multimedia platform that will extend the company beyond Internet connectivity to offer passengers exclusive access to online services that include real-time travel information, destination content, news and information, exclusive shopping deals and social network integration. The platform will also give airlines the opportunity to offer passengers access to the latest movies and TV shows through Gogo's new streaming video product.

The new platform will be a unique in-air experience that passengers access via their own Web enabled device on any aircraft equipped with Gogo Wi-Fi internet service. The new site will also be customizable to allow better branding opportunities for Gogo's airline partners. The new platform will be available beginning in the third quarter of this year.

"This is the convergence of in-flight connectivity and entertainment. When we first started offering Wi-Fi connectivity, it became clear to us that we could offer travelers so much more to enhance their travel experience," said Ash ElDifrawi, executive vice president and chief marketing officer of Gogo. "Today, travelers depend on Gogo to keep them connected in air and, while connectivity remains at the heart of our business, we are thrilled to offer travelers this new form of entertainment at 30,000 ft."

Over the last several months, Gogo has worked with design and innovation firm IDEO to define and build the new platform. Gogo engaged with IDEO to better understand the needs of travelers and the airlines. The next step was to determine how to best leverage its in-flight connectivity to address those needs.

Gogo has begun rolling out some of these new features including a new partnership with Gilt Groupe. Gogo's video service will also allow travelers to rent movies and TV shows for viewing in air. Gogo currently has an agreement with major Hollywood studios and will feature recently released movies and hit TV shows. .

"The introduction of this new platform will enable our airline partners to customize in air, online experiences to reflect their brand; it will offer passengers an engaging travel experience; and it will give advertisers access to a very unique audience" said ElDifrawi. "It offers the flexibility to provide a robust set of experiences – such as travel information, movies, shopping and social networking – that's relevant to each individual airline or specific journey. It also sends us farther down the path to making Gogo everyone's favorite part of flying."