Among the myriad of things that I learned at the recent WAEA/APEX conference in Long Beach, I learned a new phrase for what we as digEcor do. We are a provider of purpose built portable in-flight entertainment.
I’ve used different phrases over the past few years to explain why we are different from many of our competitors. Now, the industry is apparently adopting the phrase “purpose built” to differentiate proprietary devices from consumer off-the-shelf (COTS) units. Until told otherwise, I’m attributing the phrase to Michael Childers who led an excellent panel discussion during the conference about purpose built versus COTS handheld devices.
I have to be honest, I like the connotation of the phrase “purpose built.” The phrase invokes an image of a device that is made specifically to meet the needs of the industry. The phrase also suggests that other solutions are built without a purpose. In other words, other devices are generic.
So does having a purpose matter?
To put it simply – absolutely. You may write my answer off as a bias since I work for a purpose built IFE company. And you are right, I do have a bias. But my bias is based in the advantages of purpose built IFE solutions. Let me illustrate a few advantages and maybe you’ll agree with me.
- We own the intellectual property (IP) – Owning the IP is very important. COTS solutions require involving the manufacturer for any changes or modifications. If the manufacturer is unwilling to cooperate, or charges too hefty a price, then the device remains generic and inadequate to meet airlines’ needs.
- Features are set by airlines – Purpose built means airlines, flight attendants, provisioners, and passengers all have the opportunity to give invaluable input into the design. For example, we surveyed thousands of passengers multiple times in addition to spending time with airline personnel before releasing the digEplayer L Series.
- In-house repairs – This really is a strike against the iPad. Apple is very controlling and requires the use of an approved third party for all repairs. Meaning, Jetstar purchased iPads, Steller is putting content on them, Bluebox is attempting to put studio approved security on it, and now a different vendor will handle all repairs. That’s a lot of companies trying to make a profit and the airline stands to pay a lot.
- Cost control – Beyond needing a rigorous device with airline centric features, airlines also expect to pay a low price for handheld devices. Offering a purpose built solution allows us to control the cost of development and parts and remove middle-man mark-up.
Some examples of when generic works
I want to be perfectly fair. So I have compiled a short list of generic products that are completely acceptable and may even be preferred.
- Store brand ice cream
- Generic medication
- Dutch stroopwafels
- Light bulbs
So before, we were just PMPs (portable media players). Now, we are PBPMPs (purpose built portable media players). Or better yet, we offer PBPMP4IFE. I’m not sure that acronym will catch on.
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