Ina Fried

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Urban Airship Takes Customers for a Wild Ride

Apple’s developer conference started off with a bang last Monday, but for a few attendees the real highlight was soaring over the Bay Area on Friday.

Notifications firm Urban Airship decided to take two dozen of its customers for a ride in, well, an urban airship.

To the layperson, the Airship Eureka is a blimp. But, technically, the rigid frame and attached propellers mean it’s a zeppelin. And, at least according to its Tweets, the Eureka is kind of sensitive about that term. (Yes, the airship has its own twitter account.)

Urban Airship had hoped to literally do a flyover of Apple’s developer conference in San Francisco, but some fog meant that the trip went over Stanford University, Mountain View and other parts of Silicon Valley instead. Still, it was a pretty great view. Just a few minutes after vertical takeoff, everyone was able to unbuckle their seat belts and wander around the cabin. Though not exactly spacious, nearly all the area of the cabin is made up of huge windows, including a giant one with a 180-degree view in the back. There are two small openable windows on each side where one can stick out a hand or, if brave, even put one’s entire head out the window.

“When the flight attendant opened the window, that was a bit unexpected!” said Lori Osborne, a Kansas City-based program manager doing mobile work for Hallmark. “I’m not normally afraid of heights, but it was a very unnerving feeling to stick your head out the window!”

After an hour of picture taking, champagne drinking and enjoying the view, the airship returned to Moffett Field. The only person bummed was Urban Airship co-founder Michael Richardson. Richardson was set to go on the trip but had to fly out of town for a last-minute customer meeting. It was Richardson’s love of all things blimpy that led to the company name.

“It was a bit of a blow to miss the trip, but I’m sure I’ll get another chance, and it’s a small price to pay for moving the business forward,” Richardson said.

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Notification company Urban Airship took some of its customers on an actual airship — the Eureka — during Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference.


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— Om Malik on Bloomberg TV, talking about Yahoo, the September issue of Vogue Magazine, and our overdependence on Google