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SKYCAST SOLUTIONS IFESkycast has entered into a strategic partnership with Microsoft to develop a next-generation in-flight entertainment system for Windows tablets.

Right now, Skycast is developing solutions with Microsoft that work on a Dell Venue 8 Pro tablet enclosed in a security shell, and will feature content including movies, TV, digital magazines, music, and a “Xbox Game Center.” One of the stated capabilities of the device is “intra-cabin gaming,” meaning that passengers using the system will be able to compete against one another while up in the air by connecting to the plane’s wireless access points, as well as make some friends on their flight.

“This means that you can play games with them (think Words With Friends, etc),” Skycast President Greg Latimer said in an email to GeekWire. “But we are thinking there is also value in more ‘in-air neighborhood social networking.’ So, for example, if the plane is heading off to Maui or Boston, being able to toss up a question as to the best place to get shaved ice for the former or chowder for the latter.”

The agreement is a shift for Seattle-based Skycast, which has based its previous TrayVu systems on Android tablets, including the Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 7.0. The Dell tablet will be branded as the TrayVue8.

It’s good news for Microsoft, as in-flight tablet use has become a fiercely competitive market. United recently announced that it plans to offer an exclusive in-flight entertainment service to iPhone and iPad users who have the United app installed on their iOS device. Microsoft has been making its own inroads in the sky, though: the company landed a contract with Delta to provide its pilots with Surface 2 tablets.

Skycast was founded by Bill Boyer, a former Alaska Airlines baggage handler who went on to invent the digEplayer portable entertainment system more than a decade ago.

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