Identifying a need in the market for a rugged portable in-flight entertainment (IFE) device with extended battery life, California-based IMS has opted to release a new, purpose-built media player alongside its current consumer-off-the-shelf (COTS) units.

The firm's new 7in (17.8cm) touch-screen portable media player, dubbed the I7, features 24-plus hours of battery life, smart digital (SD) technology and "a whopping 4TBs of expanded storage", says IMS.

It is being released at a time when the concept of using the Apple iPad for IFE has attracted interest from some airlines but is prompting serious questions from industry specialists and content providers about its adequacy for use as IFE.

Company CEO and founder Joseph Renton explains IMS's decision to offer the purpose-built I7: "Portables in IFE are becoming commoditised with very specific requirements - the industry wants a 7in screen, rugged case, the storage capacity of a fileserver, and a battery that lasts all day - for $500."

In the meantime, he observes, COTS devices are optimising with 5in screens, less rugged cases, and storage and battery capacity that is less compatible with IFE requirements, and the ability to address special requirements - like a 24-hour battery - is more difficult to accomplish cost-effectively with COTS.

"When the requirements are that specific, and are on a different course than COTS, it makes sense to begin making our own," says Renton. "COTS is becoming a market of iPhones and iPads which, very frankly, meet only limited requirements in IFE. We looked into the next generation of COTS devices and knew it was time to offer something complementary to our COTS offering. Within a few years, as IFE goes a different way than COTS, the applications for COTS in IFE will be significantly diminished."

IMS new purpose-built portable IFE - lg

Michael Childers, an independent consultant whose consultancy, LightStream Communications, focuses on content management, supply chain automation & integration, and intellectual property issues, notes that a 24-plus hour battery life and 4TB of storage on SD cards "surpasses all" the portable media players on the market.

"The king of consumer-off-the-shelf building its own is, I think, significant. While IMS sees a parallel demand for COTS for years to come, there is no doubt a divergence in direction between COTS and IFE in this respect," he says.

IMS will offer its new player with three battery options. Where power is provided at the seat, the portable layer with no battery weighs less than 1lb (0.45kg), while the standard life battery runs for more than 8hr and weighs 1.23lb. With a 24-plus hour extended life battery the portable weighs 1.79lb.

The company says it has reached agreement with all the major motion picture studios on the requirements for early window content, and will use the same approved process in the I7 as for its seat-centric embedded RAVE system, which was unveiled at last year's World Airline Entertainment Association (WAEA) conference and exhibition in Palm Springs, California. The WAEA has since rebranded as the Airline Passenger Experience Association.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news