Executives from portable in-flight device manufacturers and consumer off the shelf units engaged in a lively panel debate about the viability of purpose built equipment now that the iPad and its emerging competitors are poised to revolutionize IFE.

Chief executive of tailored IFE provider Mezzo Dave Sampson says entry of the iPad into portable in-flight entertainment will "make people rethink IFE".

The three largest customers of portable IFE manufacturer digEcor - Aeroflot, Alaska and Hawaiian - thought two years ago that purpose-built portable IFE platforms would be a thing of the past, says president Brad Heckel. "The belief was they wouldn't need us right now."

But that idea has failed to materialise as passenger IFE preferences continue to vary. Some business travellers prefer to use a flight as an escape, says Heckel, while a segment of leisure travelers don't always fly with their own devices. He argues there will continue to be a portion of travelers requiring airlines to provide portable IFE devices.

A burning question carriers need to answer for themselves is deciding on whether to invest in players for every seat, says Heckel.

Sampson argues the debate in portable IFE needs to move away from how a device performs at a technical level. "One device is not better than the other," he says referring to the continuing debate about purpose-built versus off the shelf platforms. Instead, airlines need to decide what they want to achieve through IFE, he says. The brand positioning Jetstar aims to secure through its introduction of the Apple iPad "will not work for everyone."

Source: Flight Daily News