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Handhelds keep their heads in turbulent times

21st September 2008 - 01:00 GMT | by The Shephard News Team

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AT a time when the airlines having to be more weight and cost-conscious than ever, the advantages of handheld IFE are coming sharply into focus.

Among the providers reaping the benefit are California’a e.Digital and The IMS Company, while Utah-based digEcor has been encouraged to introduce upgraded versions of its digEplayer XT second-generation product.    

Following its success with Austrian Airlines (Inflight Online, September 9), e.Digital has announced a deal with TUIfly, Germany’s third largest carrier. With hubs at Bonn, Cologne and Hanover, the airline operates a total of 54 Boeing 737s. No details of the number of players to be deployed have been released.

IMS has been boosted by the news that British Airways premium-centric operation OpenSkies is preparing to launch its second route, Amsterdam-New York JFK, on October 15. IMS already supplies handheld service for OpenSkies’ inaugural Paris Orly-JFK route, launched in June, and must see the airline’s continued expansion as a growing opportunity – British Airways says it is looking at serving Brussels, Barcelona, Frankfurt and Milan.

IMS has also been rubbing its hands in anticipation since BA announced in July its acquisition of French premium-only carrier L’Avion, which operates between Orly and New York Newark. BA plans to integrate the two operations by next spring, raising the prospect of a shoot-out between IMS and L’Avion incumbent digEcor.

The latter has girded its loins for that fight by unveiling a string of upgrades to its digEplayer XT. At the WAEA event in Long Beach earlier this month the company showed a version featuring an improved main processor board for faster operation and increased reliability, and an optional backlit LED screen. “This is lighter, thinner, more reliable and brighter than our current display,” says digEcor spokesman Adam Williams. “And it’s around twice as bright as those of our competitors.”

The company also unveiled a prototype device designated XT ICE (for information, communication and entertainment). Features include a keyboard and a cursor-control touchpad that are backlit when in use, and an optional 15hr battery with a DC jack for charging.

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