backtop


Print 101 comment(s) - last by Manch.. on Oct 4 at 5:49 PM

Microsoft gets a big plug, but not without some vicious rumors as well

Delta Air Lines, Inc. (DAL), the world's largest airline in terms of passenger traffic in 2012, gave Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) a big boost when it announced that it would be buying all of its pilots new Surface 2 tablets, which run Microsoft's upcoming Windows 8.1 RT operating system.

I. An Enterprise Win For Microsoft, Windows 8.1

A press release by Microsoft describes:

Device rollout to pilots flying the Boeing 757 and Boeing 767 fleets will start later this year and all Delta cockpits are projected to be paperless by the end of 2014. 

Delta's flight operations SVP, Capt. Steve Dickson, remarks:

Delta's electronic flight bag running on Surface 2 continues the technological strides Delta has been making to give our crews the best tools to keep them flying safely and efficiently.  This intuitive device puts key information at their fingertips right when they need it. By eliminating paper, we'll reduce clutter and minimize time spent looking for flight information allowing our pilots the opportunity for greater situational awareness in the air and on the ground.


The move comes in the wake of shift in how wireless devices on aircraft are perceived.  The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has found in recent studies that the weak wireless signals in narrow bands of wireless spectrum used by mobile devices were not capable of interfering with airplane electronics as previously suspected.  This has in turn allowed both pilots -- and potentially even passengers -- to use wireless devices like consumer tablets during takeoff and landing.

Delta Surface 2

In the wake of those developments most major airlines have replaced or are eyeing replacing their "old school" pen and paper flight logs with tablets loaded with custom flight logging apps.  Traditionally an airline had carried up to 45 pounds of paper for flight logs, charts, and manuals.  This massive accumulation of paper not only burned fuel by adding to the flight weight, but also led to occasional errors and time-consuming searches by pilots.

Surface 2

The switch from its current 38-pound paper flight bags to the more modern Surface 2 flight bags is expected to save Delta 1.2 million gallons of fuel annually, while also cutting the airline's paper consumption by 7.5 million sheets.

II. Pilots are Reportedly Disgruntled, Employee Accusations Mount

American Airlines (owned by AMR Corp. (OTC:AAMRQ)), the world's fourth largest commercial airline, adopted Apple, Inc.'s (AAPL) iPads for flight-logging purposes and has been rolling out the tablets over its fleet, ever since December 2011.

The pickup of the Microsoft tablets by an even larger fleet is perhaps the biggest enterprise win for Surface yet.  Delta reportedly aims for "full deployment" by the end of 2014, which would likely mean one Surface 2 for every one of its 11,000 active pilots.


Delta is paying Microsoft around $5.5M USD for the tablets, which will retail for $449 USD on the consumer market when they launch on Oct. 22.  Reports indicate this expense should be more than worth it -- eliminating paper flight logs will save around $13M USD per year.


Surface 2

Even better for Microsoft, Delta has also been giving its 19,000 flight attendants Windows Phone by Microsoft subsidiary Nokia, which used Microsoft Dynamics to track customer in-flight purchases.  The Nokia Lumia 820 began rolling out to flight attendants in August, according to Delta.

III. Pilots Lobbied for iPad (Reportedly), Complain That Delta is "in bed with Microsoft”

The first-generation Surface has proven a major market dud, even if it did receive generally neutral-to-favorable reviews and earn some respectful nods for its slick design cues.  After taking a $900M USD charge (loss) on unsold first-generation Surface tablets, Microsoft has been dumping them off on the market at bargain-bin prices, even giving them away for free as part of its "Bing for Schools" program that's ostensibly supposed to drive search engine traffic towards Microsoft's Bing.

While Surface sales -- as a whole -- have struggled, sales of Microsoft's Windows RT have been especially bad as consumers have forsook the ARM-powered Microsoft devices due to their lack of compatibility with legacy x86 Windows software.  The new deal could provide a boost to the struggling Windows 8.1 RT platform and vindicate Microsoft's decision to cling to poor-selling ARM devices.

But given this lukewarm consumer reception, it's perhaps not surprising to see some employees speaking out against the deal.  One disgruntled Delta pilot reportedly accused Delta's administration of being "in bed with [Microsoft]", according to Apple Insider.  He said, "We fought hard for iPad."

The Apple Insider piece in a roundabout way seems to allege that Microsoft agreed to route its corporate flights through Delta as a kickback to sweeten the deal, and heavily wooed Delta's information technology department staff.
 

Pilots reportedly wanted an Apple iPad.

As for the specs of the Surface 2 versus its current-generation Apple competition (the fourth generation iPad), the Surface 2 looks good in most categories, except trailing slightly in screen resolution).

The Surface 2 features a lower resolution display than the current fourth generation iPad (1920x1080 vs. 2048x1536).  The devices have comparable physical storage capacity (up to 128 GB), although Microsoft's Windows recovery partition consumes several additional gigabytes cutting the usable storage space.  However, the Surface 2 features more memory (2 GB vs. 1 GB for the current iPad).  Both devices weigh approximately the same, while the Surface 2 is slightly thinner (8.9 mm vs. 9.4 mm for the iPad).  
 
The Surface 2 packs a faster Tegra 4 processor from NVIDIA.

Both tablets use chips that license ARM Holdings Plc's (LON:ARM) instruction set.  The Surface 2's NVIDIA Corp. (NVDA) system-on-a-chip appears to enjoy a healthy lead over the Apple chip in compute-heavy applications, and a narrower lead over its competitor in graphics-bound applications.  Apple's proprietary A6X 1.4 GHz dual-core chip was blown away (499 milliseconds to finish for Tegra 4 vs. 865 ms for the iPad) by the NVIDIA Tegra 4 in early Javascript Sunspider benchmarks, a compute-heavy application, while earning a narrower win in GLBenchmark 2.5, a graphics-heavy benchmark (57 frames-per-second, versus 51 fps for the iPad 4).

Sources: Microsoft, Delta, Apple Insider



Comments     Threshold


This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

RE: Might make better sense
By rich_92 on 10/1/2013 4:40:51 PM , Rating: 2
You're right. How often do these guys rummage thru these "Manuals" and for what?


RE: Might make better sense
By Granseth on 10/1/2013 5:17:18 PM , Rating: 2
It's kind of bad to not have the manual when you need it!
So it's not a question of how often, but a question if there is a situation that might require a manual


RE: Might make better sense
By Ammohunt on 10/1/2013 5:25:03 PM , Rating: 1
Lord i would hope that pilots that have flew me around were trained good enough to not RTFM during flight.
Pilot:"You smell smoke? WHATS THAT RED BLINKING LIGHT ON THE CONTROL PANEL!"
Copilot:"RTFM!"


RE: Might make better sense
By Schrag4 on 10/1/2013 5:46:41 PM , Rating: 3
Airliners are very complex machines. I wouldn't expect every pilot to know every procedure for every aircraft they might fly. I'm no expert, but I could see how they might reference the manual for some non-urgent emergency situation that's handled differently from one aircraft to the next, like something as simple-yet-dangerous as what procedure to follow if a landing gear isn't engaging. It might be 2 steps in one aircraft, 10 in another, and 30 in yet another.

Of course I'm no pilot, furthest thing from it, but I definitely understand them referencing the manuals, and on a frequent basis no less.


RE: Might make better sense
By Solandri on 10/2/2013 1:28:08 AM , Rating: 2
This. The manuals don't just cover regular operation of the plane. They cover nearly every possible scenario the pilots could encounter. e.g. What's the correct landing speed if some of the plane's systems (e.g. flaps) aren't functioning? The manual has those numbers pre-calculated for just about every possible configuration of the aircraft. What should you do if you don't get a landing gear locked light? The sum total of the knowledge of all the engineers who designed the landing gear, the controls for the landing gear, and the display indicators, all their knowledge went into coming up with the best procedure for diagnosing and taking proper action in exactly that case based on the specifics of how those systems were designed and operate.

And the pilots are trained to do stuff in the manual that covers regular operation of the plane. They're just required to follow the checklists in the manual because cockpit voice recorders have shown that a disproportionate number of accidents were caused by pilots forgetting or skipping a step in the checklist. Pilots are human, paper never forgets.


RE: Might make better sense
By Granseth on 10/1/2013 5:49:04 PM , Rating: 2
If there is 26lb of manuals (I'm guessing this includes other documentation as well) there is no way they have everything in memory.
And as I wrote, there is much better to have the manual than not.


RE: Might make better sense
By Argon18 on 10/1/2013 5:48:39 PM , Rating: 1
No, he's not right. Firstly, airlines don't use much Microsoft software, and certainly not on any of the onboard systems. Last flight I was on, the seat-back entertainment system was based on Linux. None of that is relevant anyhow, since these tablets are purely for viewing PDF manuals. They will not be connected to any networks or any other systems.

But to answer your question, yes, pilots refer to the manuals quite often. Remember that a pilot is not a mechanic, and there is no mechanic on board. Emergency procedures like moving fuel from one wing into the other wing are required in the event of an engine shut off, and those procedures are different from one model of plane to the next. That's just one example. Also don't forget that a pilot is not assigned solely to a single plane, they often switch around and fly different models. So yes, the manuals are used regularly by pilots.


RE: Might make better sense
By Ammohunt on 10/2/2013 10:59:08 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
They will not be connected to any networks or any other systems.


Sorry i find that hard to believe if that were the case why not buy a bunch of kindles or nooks for that purpose. Having a microsoft based tablet connecting to Microsoft services such as Exchange and locked down via global policy


RE: Might make better sense
By Cheesew1z69 on 10/2/2013 11:07:49 AM , Rating: 2
Or, Argon doesn't know what he is talking about...


"I f***ing cannot play Halo 2 multiplayer. I cannot do it." -- Bungie Technical Lead Chris Butcher














botimage
Copyright 2014 DailyTech LLC. - RSS Feed | Advertise | About Us | Ethics | FAQ | Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information | Kristopher Kubicki