Android to Fly and Entertain Passengers in New Boeing 787 Dreamliner Aircraft

September 21, 2011
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Android stretched is flexible arm once again lately when Boeing chose it as the preferred operating system for the in-flight entertainment systems aboard the company’s upcoming Boeing 787 Dreamliner line of aircraft.

Boeing technical manager Mark Larson told Australian Business Traveller that the 787s are currently being produced and that each plane will be fitted with Android-based servers and touchscreens.

Panasonic is making the 787-certified display panels, with sizes ranging from 7 inches to 17 inches. The displays will be embedded into the seats and will be made available from economy-class seats to first-class seats.

The larger screens, however, will not be touch-sensitive “because you cannot reach them but they’ve got a prototype for gesturing,” said Larson. This means that the screen can still be controlled–not with finger touch input but with hand gestures.

The touchscreens embedded into the seats reportedly reflect less ambient light and can be viewed from wider angles than most standard screen displays today.

Larson also mentioned that economy seats in every Boeing 787 Dreamliner will be fitted with power sockets (great for laptop charging) and USB ports for connectivity. Both features are “very popular” among Dreamliner customers, said Larson.

Boeing’s decision to choose Android is a great opportunity for Google and lock out Apple, Microsoft, and other competitors from the next major aircraft of the industry. Boeing already had over 800 orders for the Boeing 787 Dreamliner priced at an average of US$210 million per plane.

However, airlines could not freely choose seats and in-flight entertainment systems of their choice. They enjoyed that flexibility of options in previous Boeing products. With the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, however, buyers can only choose from a limited list of pre-approved suppliers. Boeing has done this to reduce cost by minimizing variations in the in-flight entertainment systems limited only to Panasonic and Thales.

This development is such a big opportunity for Google, but still, one has yet to find out whether this decision by Boeing will create value for those who will soon be flying in these Dreamliners.

Why would Boeing, who will have the next big thing in the airline industry, take such bold attempts to cut cost by limiting in-flight entertainment system suppliers and choosing a relatively cheaper operating system?

Image credit: Australian Business Traveller

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