Apple in talks with airlines about bringing iTunes music and video downloads to seat-backs in-flight

“Aircraft in-flight entertainment (IFE) system providers have held talks with Apple Computer on the possibility of licensing its iTunes media download software for airlines’ own systems, enabling passengers to use frequent-flyer miles to download music and videos on to iPod MP3 players in-flight,” Andrew Doyle reports for Flight International. “‘We’ve had lots of discussions with Apple,’ said Thales vice-president and in-flight systems general manager Brad Foreman last week at Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg. ‘The key is to get them to see the value of hosting iTunes on an aircraft. Is it a big enough market for them to be interested in? I’d try to do it tomorrow if they said yes.’ Panasonic Avionics strategic product marketing director David Bruner agreed that ‘there’s a lot of airline interest’ in the idea of hosting iTunes. ‘Apple is aware of the market,’ he said. ‘It’s a small market for them, but it’s a very visible market.'”

“Apple refuses to confirm or deny the talks,” Doyle reports. “Several airlines have requested building iPod docks, or Universal Serial Bus (USB) ports in seatbacks, allowing passengers to browse iTunes through the airline’s IFE system before transferring music directly to the MP3 player. Flights could be an ideal time during which to download songs, but currently it is restricted to those passengers with laptops flying on a flight with a wireless network. In order to license an onboard system offering, Apple would have to re-engineer the software to allow songs downloaded mid-flight to be transferred back on the customer’s computer hard disk, currently prohibited. Apple would also encounter licensing issues similar to those faced by in-flight telephony providers over where copyright and sales data are recorded for media downloaded in international airspace, according to industry insiders familiar with the negotiations.”

Full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: If Apple decides to do such a thing, it would be more of a mindshare and marketing move for Apple than a profit play. The dominant market leader should be in seat-backs in-flight as opposed to seeing a beleaguered Napster or Real or some other sputtering also-ran Microsoft WMA-crippled outfit that’s limited to Windows-only while also being iPod-incompatible.

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18 Comments

  1. First post (or near to it) ” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”smile” style=”border:0;” />

    This can be a win win situation for Apple to maintain their near monoploy over the download music market.

    It’s a first thing for them, always being the underdog and doing things their way to maximize profits, but now they have to make concessions to maintain that near monopoly.

    It’s a good experience, better Apple than Microsloth.

    Have a nice day “Mike”.

  2. Actually, I think it would be smarter for the airlines to go with a subscription service. For the price of one subscription fee they could download all the songs available to a central computer on the plane, which everyone could then access from their seats. It would be a great perk to offer all of their customers: free music from a database of over a million songs to listen to during your flight. As nice as it would be to have iTMS available to passengers, it just wouldn’t really affect many of them.

  3. Offering susbscription services is not a win for the airlines. I think their goal is to use iTunes purchases to unload frequent flyer miles that they otherwise would have to rebate in the form of free travel…

  4. This would be excellent advertising for Apple.

    Even if people couldn’t actually buy the songs and download them to an iPod, the fact that it would give people a music library which they can choose to listen to whatever type of music they want too (rather than the in-flight ‘radio’ programme where they have no choice), and get to use the iTunes interface would be a big plus.

    Rolled out accross all in-flight passenger classes, how many CEOs or Joe Publics would it show a positive iTunes experience to?

    And they could show small QT movies/trailers for films/music videos, not to mention a demonstration section of ‘How to’s…” for Apple products:
    ‘How to use… iDVD’, ‘How to use… Keynote’, ‘How to use… Boot Camp’, etc.

    They’d have a captive audience!

  5. “Apple would have to re-engineer the software to allow songs downloaded mid-flight to be transferred back on the customer’s computer hard disk, currently prohibited.”

    Yeah, ’cause there aren’t a million free apps out there that do this for you?

  6. Now if only we could get Apple to convince the airlines that listening to your iPod is not endangering the aircraft on take-off.

    “Please turn off all computers, communication devices, yadda yadda.”

    Excuse me, my iPod is NOT going to interfere with any of the plane’s sensors, communications gear, or other equipment. It just plays music to my ears. ” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”raspberry” style=”border:0;” />

  7. Heck, I’d just like an inflight movie service that lets me pay to watch whatever I want on those long flights to downunder. iTunes videos would make a great on-demand system and eliminate all the media player crap I’m carrying in the cabin (laptop, iPod, portable DVD player, batteries, batteries and batteries.

  8. Hi blucaso,

    It’s not because the iPod will interfere with the plane’s systems. They don’t want you to be distracted listening to music, playing with a computer, or watching a video during takeoff and landing. This is the most dangerous part of the plane ride. You need to be alert and ready to take direction from the crew or evacuate the aircraft in an emergency situation.

    ITG

  9. I think you’re on to something Winston. Can’t you just imagine the silhouette ads featuring 747s and Airbus 380s. This would be fantastic. Apple doesn’t make much money from the ITMS, so this would be major mindshare and pioneering play.

    Mini Apple stores in airports…hmmmm

    ITG

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