Panasonic Avionics is considering developing another generation of in-flight entertainment (IFE) systems to specifically meet the needs of the retrofit market, a senior industry source reveals.
IFE systems that are designed for retrofit generally have a lower cost of development because they do not necessarily need to pass all the manufacturing processes and specification requirements that Boeing and Airbus have defined for linefit offerability.
A source tells RWG that Panasonic is warming to the idea of creating retrofit-ready IFE "to take advantage of the lower costs" of bringing such systems to market, and the lower prices it could offer to airlines.
Panasonic and Thales are the industry leaders in IFE, having each spent many millions of dollars on ensuring their embedded IFE systems meet airframers' stringent qualifications. However, in recent years, other IFE providers have managed to generate business with systems that must be installed through retrofit as they have not yet received offerability.
California-based Lumexis is probably the most visible of the newcomers, having provided FlyDubai with a green field installation strategy that ensures the carrier's new Boeing 737s undergo speedy retrofit in Seattle as soon as they roll off the line. The first FlyDubai aircraft has already been equipped with Lumexis' fiber optics-based IFE and received supplemental type certification.
But other IFE suppliers are also nipping at the heels of Thales and Panasonic. IMS recently scored a deal with SriLankan to bring its seat-centric IFE system to the carrier's widebody fleet. Royal Jordanian recently completed installation on an Airbus A340 of a new IFE system developed by Zodiac unit Sicma Aero Seat. And last week I highlighted a new IFE system from Taiwanese firm SkyGem (an eagle-eyed reader has pointed out that one of the buttons is sticking on the SkyGem system in the photos).
While some observers suspect that the likes of Lumexis, IMS and Sicma are less focused on offerability, reasoning that it is 'more pain than it's worth', others believe Lumexis, in particular, could yet surprise.
Lumexis' system is making airframers stand up and take notice, says a high-level source, as it is vastly lighter than traditional IFE.
Should Panasonic offer a lower-cost, retrofit-ready system, however, airlines will have yet another option to consider.
Feels like a game of chess, no? :0)