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A BYOD Thanksgiving in Planes and Automobiles

by Roger Lanctot | Dec 01, 2013

The week before the week of Thanksgiving in the U.S., I was on a transcontinental flight to Los Angeles for the L.A. Auto Show in a plane with no in-seat power and no seatback or overhead display. (There was also only a paid snack, no free meal.) What the airline offered, though, was Wi-Fi (paid).

Combined with a recent loosening of the rules governing the use of mobile devices on airplanes in the U.S. it is clear that the era of bring your own device (BYOD) on airplanes has arrived. For airlines, the calculation is clear – removing displays in every seat (along with overhead displays) reduces weight and fuel consumption.

Add in the fact that a significant portion of travelers are willing to pay for the privilege of wirelessly connecting and the switch to BYOD is a no-brainer. Flying is a sit back experience – although I am writing this blog while in flight over the Pacific.  Walk down the aisle of an airplane on a long haul flight and you will find 50% or more of the passengers with their faces bathed in an LCD glow from a mobile device.

The airline I fly most frequently, United, is clearly in the midst of a fleet-wide Wi-Fi upgrade: http://www.united.com/web/en-us/Content/travel/inflight/wifi/default.aspx

In cars, though, it is a different story. While driving seven hours to Thanksgiving dinner and eight hours back from Thanksgiving dinner this past week it was clear that the BYOD era has arrived in cars – at least in my car. Two of my sons played games, texted and talked on their personal devices in the rearseat, connecting with personal unlimited data plans.

But driving back at night revealed at least two dozen neighboring SUVs and minivans on the highway with fold-down, ceiling-mounted displays – including one three-row SUV with two rows of fold-down displays. Display configurations in cars include single split screens, headrest-mounted displays, fold up and fold down systems.

Rearseat entertainment remains, famously, a niche category – suitable mainly for young families and hip-hop artists. But RSE suppliers seeking growth can find it in emerging markets, where both OEM and aftermarket installation of these systems continues to grow.

Where airlines may be removing displays to reduce weight, car makers are adding displays, according to Strategy Analytics forecasts and in response to consumer demand: http://tinyurl.com/o9kn2br - In-Vehicle Displays: Consumer Preferences and Market Forecast.

A unique circumstance is emerging in cars, though, as the means of connecting mobile devices to on-board displays continue to proliferate. From the Wi-Fi Alliance's Miracast to Apple’s Airplay, VNC and HTPC technologies, the future will find cars and airplanes diverging in their display installation strategies.  In cars, consumers will increasingly seek to connect their mobile device to the on-board system - while airplanes will remain a disconnected, personal experience.

Built-in displays may be disappearing from some airplane cabins, while proliferating in cars. But both user environments are seeking to accommodate the brought in mobile devices of drivers and passengers in their own ways. But please, United, bring back in-seat power.

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