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While Apple continues to score wins in the use of its iPad for inflight entertainment, Boeing has chosen its nemesis – Google’s Android operating system – to provide music, video and even airline-specific apps for the next-gen 787 Dreamliner.
According to Mark Larson, technical manager at Boeing’s Dreamliner Gallery, all 787s now in production will be fitted with Android-based servers and touchscreens.
“Those Dreamliners that are being configured right now can get (Android)” Larson told Australian Business Traveller.
Panasonic has already built the first 787-certified Android touchscreen, which is available in everything from economy seats to first-class suites.
However, Larson explains that “a lot of the larger screens (for business and first class) will be non-touch because you can't reach them, although they’ve also got a prototype of gesturing,” so if your monitor is too far away you can control it using simple hand gestures.
The new touchscreen panels (shown below fitted to economy class seats) have a wider viewing angle than today’s screens, and are less reflective of ambient light.
Boeing’s decision effectively locks out Apple, Microsoft and other Google competitors from the airline industry's next major aircraft, for which Boeing already has some 820 firm orders (including 50 from Qantas and Jetstar) at an average cost of A$210m each.
Unlike other Boeing aircraft, where airlines can specify the seats and in-flight entertainment systems of their own choice, customers for the 787 Dreamliner must choose from a list of pre-approved suppliers which Boeing has set up in an effort to reduce costs and streamline aircraft production.
In the in-flight entertainment space this is limited to Panasonic and Thales – both of whom will produce 787-ready servers and touchscreens running Android, Larson says.
Both companies' 787 product lines boast screens in a range of sizes from 7 inches to 17 inches.
The 787 also raises the connectivity bar with laptop power sockets and USB ports on the menu for economy seats. While some seat manufacturers count these as options, Larson says that both have proven to be “very popular” with Dreamliner customers.