Starting "soon," and definitely before the end of 2014, United passengers should bring along their laptop, iPad or iPhone, load up the latest United app prior to boarding, and then launch the app once the plane is above 10,000 feet. You'll then be able to choose from "over 150 movies and nearly 200 TV shows and watch them free of charge on your personal device." It's actually quite astonishing that they're rolling this out as a free service, but they'll almost certainly attempt to squeeze a few dollars out of it once the novelty wears off.
For example, Alaska Airlines and JetStar have offered personal in-seat tablets with entertainment for some time now, but for a fee. Interestingly, only Apple devices (and all laptops, it seems) are supported initially. In other words, BlackBerry, Android, and Windows Phone users are out of luck, but that speaks to just how many passengers end up toting iOS products. It'll also be interesting to see how the networks hold up and how the streaming is conducted; we're assuming the content will be stored locally onboard and streamed via a private network instead of access the Internet. Either way, we sure hope it's a scheme that other airlines follow.