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Hi, I’m Kevin Coupe and this is MorningNewsBeat Radio, brought to you by Webstop, your first stop for retail website design services.

It appears that before long, a number of airlines are going to turn their cabins into traveling hot spots, making it possible for travelers to connect with the Internet, surf the web, do email, exchange instant messages, etc, etc, etc… even while traveling really, really fast while really, really high up in the sky. The Wall Street Journal suggests that US airlines will begin offering these services late this year or early in 2008, and that it may even be followed by in-sky cell phone usage, though this is a little bit more controversial.

I’m of two minds on these changes. I have to say that I love the idea of having access to the Internet while in the air; as you can imagine, I’m fairly connected to my computer on a day to day basis in order to keep MorningNewsBeat going, and especially on long trips, it would be great to be able to get online. I actually was able to do this while flying back from Japan on ANA last December, and it was a wonderful service – and making it even better, it was free. I hope that US airlines follow the same pattern and don’t turn it into a profit center – free wi-fi would be a wonderful differential advantage, and enough to make me choose one airline over another. I suspect a lot of travelers would feel the same way.

I’m not so thrilled with the idea of cell phone service, however. I actually sort of like being unavailable to callers for those cross-country or trans-oceanic flights. It is a great time to write, to read, to think or even to sleep…and I’d hate that tranquility to vanish. But if it does, I guess I’m just going to have to be disciplined enough to turn off my cell phone and don a pair of noise-canceling earphones so I don’t have to listen to everyone’s else’s conversations.

All these changes illustrate vividly how and why retailers need to change both their strategies and tactics to appeal to the new consumer for whom so many of these kinds of services will shortly be a given. Anyone who reads MorningNewsBeat knows that I feel passionately about this.

However, I have to admit to having a bit of an epiphany the other day. I have neighbors who live just two doors over from me. I just found out, though we’ve both been on the street for most of the past two decades, that they still get television reception using an old fashioned antennae strapped to their chimney. They don’t have any sort of cable television, and while they have a computer, they’re still using dial-up AOL.

Now, my first reaction to this was that I didn’t know we had Amish people living in the neighborhood. But the more I thought about it, the more I thought that even as they shift priorities to speak to a technologically savvy consumer base, retailers need to be careful not to disenfranchise people like my neighbors.

Here’s a statistic for you – only 19 percent of the United States had broadband Internet access in 2006. While that number clearly is going up, it still leaves plenty of people like my neighbors who not only don’t have it, but aren’t interested.

They’re not Luddites, though it would appear so; they’re just folks who prefer surface roads and the scenic route to the information super highway.

For MorningNewsBeat Radio, I’m Kevin Coupe.
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