GEC-MARCONI InFlight Systems (GMIS) is to leave the in-flight entertainment (IFE) market when its existing contractual commitments have been fulfilled. The company has also experienced problems attempting to get equipment into service.

Potential purchasers for the proprietary technology are being sought, but despite industry rumours, GMIS says that there is no immediate sign of a buyer. The division is likely to cease to exist as a GEC business unit within a year.

The move follows problems with the company's interactive IFE system. United is suing GMIS over alleged contractual deficiencies with equipment installed on its Boeing 777s and cancelled the rest of its orders, as well as abandoning plans to install the system in its 747s and 767s. Boeing, meanwhile, has redesigned the 777's cabin-management system, which forced GMIS to alter its own product line.

GMIS managing director, Peter Rowley, speaking to Flight International's sister publication In-Flight Entertainment International, says that there could have been a way forward for GMIS had Boeing and interactive launch customer United Airlines not taken the actions they did, which prevented GMIS from building incrementally on its established products.

Rowley says that the resulting increase in development costs led to his recommendation to GEC-Marconi that "-the business case did not stand up". The GMIS boss says that the pricing-led IFE market "-is similar to an immature IT market, with most interactive systems seeming to be sold on the basis of price, rather than functionality". He believes that IFE pricing levels do not reflect the investment required to produce robust systems, and that there is no prospect of matters improving.

The GMIS product line includes three systems, the interactive 2700IK system, the non-interactive 2200A system and the all-new 3200IM, which was to enter service in 1998. The 2700IK is the product now supplied for British Airways, Emirates and United Airlines Boeing 777s. The 2200A is the equipment for the 777s operated by Japan Air System and Thai International.

The switch was forced on GMIS by Boeing's change to the architecture of its 777 cabin-management system to comply with Arinc 628, and by the company's desire to migrate its system on to other types - primarily the 747 and 767.

Before GMIS can be wound down, the software development of the solutions to cure remaining problems with the in-service interactive systems will be completed, while a support operation is to be put in place for present customers. "We have plans in place to enhance our customer support and to inegrate our support infrastructure into the GEC-Marconi Avionics Support division," says Rowley.

GMIS is now trying to ensure that it retains about 150 engineering staff required to perform the remaining tasks.

Source: Flight International