From Gerald Lynch’s piece at Gizmodo:
Offline downloads are perhaps the most often requested, “holy grail” feature of TV and movie streaming services, and while Netflix may be the leading provider, it’s Amazon and its Prime Instant Video service that’s become the first to offer it. Netflix however remains firm in its stance that it’s not going to offer offline downloads through its mobile applications, even in the face of competition from its rival. But why?
According to Neil Hunt, Netflix’s Chief Product Officer, Netflix users won’t be able to handle the complexity the added choice will bring.
“I still don’t think it’s a very compelling proposition,” said Hunt, speaking to Gizmodo UK at the IFA tradeshow in Berlin.
As I write this at 34,000 feet over Montana, all I can say is, I don’t buy it.
The biggest use case for downloaded content is air travel. Airlines have been extremely quick at installing WiFi and some of these systems even offer streaming content, but basic WiFi service is still the norm and just about every service out there that I have seen blocks streaming content from Netflix, Amazon, etc. On top of that more airlines are moving to a model where streaming movies and TV hosted on an onboard server are paid content only. The recourse for customers is to download that content before a flight.
About six months ago I made a comment on Twitter about how I wished Amazon would allow downloads of video content on non-Fire devices. There was, and still is, a large amount of video content that I would like to enjoy and now I can, even when flying. Add people who don’t want to eat up their data plan or don’t have access to an LTE network from time to time and the number of those who could benefit from downloads starts to increase dramatically.
The argument that downloads would be too complex seems to me to be a cop-out. An easy way to avoid the discussion. People will take notice and eventually Netflix will have to offer downloads or some variant of them.
One of the travel issues that I have been struggling with is internet access while in foreign countries. As some of my travel destinations become more obscure, access to the internet becomes more difficult. Do I absolutely need internet when traveling abroad? It is definitely one of those items that would be nice to have if I encountered problems with flights or travel in general and if for some reason I need to do some work or access a file back home having the access would be welcome.
I have been looking at items like this Unlocked WIFI Mobile Hotspot and I thought it would actually fit the bill until I saw that it wasn’t actually 4G. I have heard from a few friends that it is possible to get a real 4G device unlocked from stores in England. Then it is as simple as getting a data SIM card from a local carrier in the country you are in and presto, you have internet access. Of course these devices are fickle and in some cases it is hard to find a data SIM but for most scenarios, the process should work as advertised.
With all of that said, is internet access really necessary? I am sure that if the circumstances were dire, I could find an internet cafe or pay for an international phone call. Internet is really just a “nice to have” item. During my recent trip to Budapest, the internet in the hotel was as slow as molasses and having an alternate connection would have been very welcome. At the same time, travel is opportunity to disconnect and focus on the trip. By not having that internet connection overseas, it is a motivator to get out and see things rather than try to keep up with what is going on on Facebook, Twitter, etc.
If you have actually found a 4G device that works well overseas, I would love to get your thoughts on it.
To Tweet From 30,000 Feet: Picking Planes Wired for Wi-Fi →
Scott McCartney on some interesting trends:
Airlines say Wi-Fi usage-the percentage of passengers paying for Internet access—is picking up, driven partly by the popularity of tablet computers and partly because more planes have the service. Currently about 8% of passengers use the service, up from 4% at the end of 2010, according to In-Stat, a research and consulting firm. That likely will reach 10% of passengers by the end of this year, In-Stat says.
In-Flight Wi-Fi usage growth is no surprise. We are addicted to being connected just about everywhere we are. Why should an airplane limit that addiction? My opinion on this is two-fold. Sure, it is great to get your e-mail, work on your website, post photographs, etc. while you’re in the air but as someone who travels for work, I relish being cut off from the outside world for a while.
Since United announced a push to install Wi-Fi on a number of their aircraft, I will see if my perception and opinion changes over the next year. I tried to use in-flight Wi-Fi on a trip from Seattle to Frankfurt on Lufthansa in December but it was inoperative the entire time. On a flight of that length, it would have been quite nice.