Back in January, we learned that Alaska Airlines was planning on introducing new Windows 8-powered tablets to passengers to help satisfy their entertainment needs. Flights can be long and tiring, so having an all-in-one device for gaming, watching movies, reading books, and more can come in handy.
Alaska Airlines has since started deploying the tablets as part of its Alaska Beyond experience. The tablets have now been identified as Toshiba Encore 2 devices, and the airline has increased its initial order of 7000 units because the demand for them was simply too high. For only $8-10, customers will be able to use the tablets and enjoy all of the content on them as soon as the aircraft reaches its cruising altitude.
“Moving to Windows tablets enables us to provide a cutting edge experience for Alaska’s travelers… In particular, the robust security capabilities allow us to work with Hollywood studios to load ‘Early Window’ [still in theater] movies that wouldn’t be available without similar safeguards.” Greg Latimer, President Skycast Solutions
We initially thought that the tablets would be running regular Windows 8.1 but have come to learn that they will be running Windows Embedded 8.1 Industry instead. The tablets will be operated by Microsoft Partner Skycast Solutions on behalf of Alaska Airlines and will insure that the devices remain secure and up-to-date. Skycast Solutions ties with Hollywood studios will also give them the ability to upload movies that are still in theaters to the tablets. This wouldn’t have been possible if Hollywood didn’t think that the devices were secure enough to prevent the theft of these movies.
“Innovating a flight experience starts with really understanding our customers… With that end user in mind, we made the decision to move to Windows because of the flexibility of the platform and the ability to deliver a wide array of content options.” Curtis Kopf, Vice President of Innovation, Alaska Airlines
Another partner, Ratio, will work on designing and creating new entertainment apps for the tablets. Ratio will also gather analytics data using the Azure Data Factory that will provide Alaska Airlines with real-time information on customer’s usage habits. This, in turn, will help Alaska Airlines provide an improved experience for passengers.
“The Ratio telemetry, powered by the Azure Data Factory, allows Alaska Airlines to understand the entertainment scenarios that its guests prefer and track content popularity… Enabling Alaska to curate content that best serves the traveler is a perfect demonstration of what’s possible when you bring together amazing partners committed to creating an exceptional user experience.” Russ Whitman, Chief Strategy Officer, Ratio.
Alaska Airlines is also excited to see what Windows 10 will have to offer and may upgrade its in-flight entertainment tablets accordingly when the OS is ready. As the trend to remove seatback entertainment displays continues to spread among airlines, it will be interesting to see whether other airlines also decide to provide tablets to passengers. The success that Alaska Airlines has seen with its tablets makes for a promising future for Windows in the sky.