To all the naysayers out there who believe in-stalled in-flight entertainment (IFE) is becoming obsolete and will, like the Old South, find itself gone with the wind, I ask you to draw your attention to today's top story on Flight Global's new IFE&C channel, about new market player Lumexis.
The California-based company has secured a full-fleet customer for its fiber-to-the-screen (FTTS) IFE system, which offers an unlimited platform for entertainment, communication/connectivity, cached websites, commercial transaction/data transfer and cabin/aircraft data collection/distribution.
That an airline is opting for state-of-the-art IFE from a relative newcomer despite today's global economic recession is impressive in its own right.
But the deal is important on a number of other levels too.
1) It underscores the important role that IFE continues to play - and will play in the future - especially as airlines seek new ways to personalize the travel experience for passengers while generating new ancillary revenue streams.
2) It brings a new player to the game of Duopoly. Panasonic and Thales have for years dominated the embedded IFE space, following Rockwell Collins' decision not to pursue IFE business on new generation widebodies (the Airbus A380 and Boeing 787); and,
3) It shows that there is still financing to be had for new IFE installs (i.e., the ever important moneymen, whoever they are, don't think the death knell has rung for installed IFE).
"My sense is that 'connectivity' is a broad term encompassing quite different roles/requirements such as real time TV, Internet surfing, SMS messaging, etc. Our corporate charter has been to become the on-board network for every kind of application and communication source, but not to provide the "off-aircraft" links," Lumexis CEO Douglas Cline tells RWG.
"There is a plethora of diverse service providers including satellite and terrestrial channels of all flavors and we have committed to connect to any/all of them our airline customers want us to tie in, but not to compete with them. So, in a sense, we are the most 'connectable' of full-functionality IFE suppliers."
Perhaps more than anything it remains true that movies are more compelling to watch on a big screen versus a smartphone or other small-sized personal device.
Frankly, the thought of a tiny little Rhett bidding adieu to a tiny little Scarlett makes me actually give a damn about installed IFE.