A European operator will serve as the launch customer for digEcor's next generation portable in-flight entertainment (IFE) device known as the L7.

Though digEcor president Brad Heckel declines to identify the European carrier, he says manufacturing of the handheld device is imminent as production tooling is underway.

DigEcor has teamed with Chinese firm Lefeel Media Technology to produce both the L7 and the L10, which feature 177.8mm (7in) and 254mm (10in) capacitive touch screens, respectively.

"We've been working with them for the engineering and part of the design," Heckel says, adding that L10 production is expected to start in April.

Prototypes of the portables debuted at the World Airline Entertainment Association (WAEA) conference in October 2009.

As digEcor prepares to deliver L7 devices to its launch customer, the company is also pursuing a connectivity trial with some of its existing IFE customers as L series players will be Wi-fi enabled when they reach the marketplace. Heckel did not specify with whom a test could potentially occur.

"[We] haven't worked out the details yet. [We're] waiting until some things fall in place to finalise a trial with the L7," he says.

While the Utah firm's existing digEplayer XT and digEplayer XLP have Wi-fi capability, that capability will be stronger on L series devices, and will be more suitable for viewing videos and other content, Heckel adds.

L series players, as well as the digEplayer XT, also have credit card swipes build into the units, enabling real-time credit card transactions when internet connectivity is available.

The credit card processing capability is supporting a new shopping feature digEcor is introducing later this year. Heckel says a number of airlines plan to offer the feature to passengers in the coming months.

digEcor has the ability to create stores for airlines to sell their merchandise, and stores for merchants selling speciality items, says Heckel. The company is also examining potential duty-free partnerships.

In the meantime, digEcor is working with its exclusive partner Flight Deck Gaming to create new gaming options. Airlines have the option of offering the game free to customers or for a charge.

"These are custom games that are designed to allow people to participate in skill-based gaming or casino gaming depending on what the airline is willing to allow their passengers to play," Heckel says.

However, unless airlines are willing to secure gambling licenses, casino games are done primarily for amusement, says digEcor's president.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news