In these early stages of speculation, I concur with Ikarus regarding the fact that it is unlikely that Emirates' new IFE system will be revolutionary.
In 2002, this can be assumed for a number of reasons. For those of you who are familiar with the world's current IFE systems, you'll be aware that there are principally two major manufacturers: Rockwell Collins and Matsushita. Additionally, you have smaller companies such as Thales who are trying to cut out a niche in the market.
Emirates has and continues to use Matsushita's products as they are, technologically speaking, superior systems and this is especially true for MAS’ 3000. Both manufacturers are, however, in the process of developing what we can truly call revolutionary systems.
These will, however, will be a good 12-36 months away but you can expect to see a lot more in the way of personalisation, control and efficiency which will tie together cabin management with the IFE programmes. This will mean the use of electronic “credit cards”, better crew monitoring systems and a completely revised and thoroughly useful use of interactive features. Whilst in development, these systems are referred to as the cabins of the future and there is little doubt they will be.
Being Matsushita, Singapore Airlines has, and continues to take, instrumental roles in the development of new programmes so it is likely that we’ll see them aboard SIA aircraft before Emirates. Instead, I would expect that Emirates is referring to the installation of an updated MAS 3000 system with an extension of functions. However, it will still be a fair way off the cabin of the future specifications.
This has been the way airlines have been doing their IFE since the early 1990s. There have, however, been exceptions. For instance, British Airways has taken the decision to stray from what traditional IFE manufacturers have provided so that they can create systems with the functionality and versatility they are happy with. Lufthansa too has, together with Rockwell Collins, been developing, for almost four years, a revolutionary new set of offerings which are estimated to break cover in late 2003. So, it is possible that Emirates may have taken up their offers too.
So instead of speculating, we’ll just have to wait until the moment when, if we believe all the marketing hype, we’ll see the most revolutionary aircraft cabins in the air.