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Mr. airline CEO, meet telepresence (or else)

May 2, 2009 | Chris Payatagool

Posted by Larry Dignan

Guest post: Anshu Sharma is a software as a service and cloud computing expert. Here he ponders the impact of telepresence on the airlines.

I don't think too many airline CEO's read my blog. I do know a few tech CEO's that do read it. Let's pretend to be an airline CEO - I want you to answer this question:

What business are you in? Flights or Meetings?

Just as newspapers thought they were in the business of gathering news and printing news papers; the music industry CEO's thought they were in the business of vinyl records, tapes or CDs; many airlines appear to think they are in the business of ensuring flights are running on time, tickets are sold and customers pay extra for baggage (monetization). I think they are wrong.

Airplanes.jpg
Serving Customers with 50 year old technology - the flying machine

Cisco Telepresence is to airlines what Google Search was to newspapers and classfieds. And airlines have a choice - they can rethink their mission and realize that what customers are looking for is not flights or tickets or baggage fees but meeting business counterparts face to face, connect with family and go on vacations. The visionary airline CEO would then try to see how Telepresence would impact this market. And then take steps to re-imagine their business.

Here are things I would do if I were the CEO of Mythical Air:

    * Embrace Telepresence as another mechanism for people to meet and declare that we would help customers with this.
    * Create "Mythical Air" Telepresence Lounges - in major cities and smaller towns. These lounges will include Cisco Telepresence.
    * Mythical Air Lounges in airports will also include Cisco Telepresence - while this may threaten our 'flights' business but in reality our customers would be happy - if they are late, they can connect via telepresence. Even when the flights are on time, they can leverage time in the lounges doing business - and learning how useful this system is. So, next time they are likely to buy Mythical Air Telepresence trips rather than Airline trips.
    * Tie up with major hotel chains to partner and run Mythical Lounges inside hotels. Now our customers can run global meetings by meeting regionally in hotels.
    * Work with Expedia, Orbitz and others to list Mythical Telepresence among the 'flight options' in results. So, when a customer types in Sacramento to London - the results include flight from Sacramento to San Francisco and 'telepresence flight' from San Francisco to London (and offer a hotel in San Francisco).

Imagine if,

    * Newspapers had co-opted internet search and publishing
    * Music industry had co-opted internet delivery

Let's see if any airlines re-define their mission statements and co-opt this innovation. Or do they all end up fighting this trend and each other for the shrinking market. Blue ocean or red ocean?





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