In-flight Entertainment: Coffee, Tea, or iPod

The frequent flyers over at Flight are reporting that iPod connectivity to airlines' in-flight entertainment (IFE) systems are starting to take off: 

"Singapore Airlines last week started supplying iPod and iPhone connectivity on the first of five newly reconfigured all-business Airbus A340-500s. United Airlines is expected to soon offer this feature in the premium cabins of its international widebody fleet, and Air New Zealand has opted for iPod integration as part of a retrofit of Airbus A320s and Boeing 767s with Panasonic's new X Series platform.

Panasonic appears well-positioned to capture even more business. It claims to have the only IFE solution that can natively support Apple's authentication technology. 'Based on my involvement with our sales and marketing team, I can tell you that just about every airline we speak with has asked us to demonstrate this feature,' says Panasonic Avionics director, product line management Marshal Perlman."

Panasonic's X Series interface

With such a system in place, an iPod or iPhone user would be able to view audio and video content streamed from the planes' in-flight entertainment system. The Panasonic X Series platform includes support for live TV, e-mail, Internet access, and VoIP--although airlines can opt which of these services to actually offer--and not all of them will be available for use via an iPod.

The initial implementations of these services are limited to premium-service customers, where such high-end amenities are expected. If the services prove popular and lucrative, it's a safe bet we'll be seeing such services become available to the rest of us in steerage economy class.