As promised, I’m back with some actual news. Earlier this morning passengers embarked on a special preview voyage from NYC to SF on the all-new BetaBlue (from JetBlue). The special Airbus is especially notable given that is equipped with in flight Wi-Fi access to Yahoo! Messenger and Mail. That’s right … you’ll be able to stay connected even when you are in the air! If you look really close at the Blackberry you can almost make out the BetaBlue startup screen.
Reports from media on the flight are already starting to circulate, so be on the lookout. Below is a Yodel post from SVP, Brad Garlinghouse, that gives more details.
Here are some photos of the launch event at SFO (courtesy of Jeremy Johnstone):
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Yahoo! Mail and Messenger fly sky high
by Brad Garlinghouse
If you thought surfing live TV with a seatbelt securely fastened about your waist was cool, try popping off an instant message, SMS or email at 30,000 feet! Yahoo! is partnering with JetBlue, RIM, and LiveTV (the JetBlue subsidiary that makes that seatback entertainment possible) to take our global email and IM leadership (and our promise to keep friends and family connected) to new heights – literally.
You might have heard the news by now, but as we speak, JetBlue Flight 641 is flying from NYC’s Kennedy Airport en route to San Francisco, equipped with an onboard wireless network that lets passengers use Yahoo! Mail and Yahoo! Messenger in flight for free. Known as BetaBlue, the Airbus A320 is the first domestic plane to offer such a service. And it’s a six-month test we hope will expand.
For the last couple of months the Yahoo! Mail and Messenger teams have been working hard to develop custom, lightweight versions that perform particularly well with the bandwidth considerations of a high-altitude network. If you have a WiFi-enabled laptop, you can log on and find all of the basic email and messenger functionality. You can also check your Address Book, send text messages, and connect with your Yahoo! contacts as well as those using Microsoft’s Windows Live Messenger. You can even have your Messenger status link to a map that lets friends on the ground track exactly where your flight is at that moment!
The other big news, especially for Crackberry addicts like me, is that, on BetaBlue, you’ll be able to check Yahoo! Mail and Messenger on your WiFi-enabled BlackBerry (the 8820 and Curve 8320) — though you still need to turn off the cellular transmitter.
How does it work? The service uses an FCC-licensed air-to-ground spectrum owned by LiveTV. It provides coverage in the continental U.S. above 10,000 feet and connects with 100 air-to-ground communications towers.
Last week I had the chance to take BetaBlue for a spin to preview our project with JetBlue founder Dave Neeleman, LiveTV CEO Nate Quigley, folks from RIM, and a handful of media. We headed off from JFK, got up to cruising altitude, and fired off some messages. As this is still a beta service, we are excited to work with our partners to make this an ideal consumer experience and look forward to hearing what BetaBlue customers have to say.
Unfortunately you can’t request to book passage on BetaBlue — it’s luck of the draw. But if you arrive at your gate and see our logo emblazoned on your plane, you’ll know you’re in for an entertaining ride.
SVP, Yahoo! Communications & Communities