Delta to Give Pilots Surface 2; Pilots Reportedly "Fought Hard" for iPads
October 1, 2013 3:55 PM
Microsoft gets a big plug, but not without some vicious rumors as well
Delta Air Lines, Inc. (
), the world's
in terms of passenger traffic in 2012, gave Microsoft Corp. (
) 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
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.
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. (
)), the world's fourth largest commercial airline, adopted Apple, Inc.'s (AAPL)
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.
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
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]",
. He said, "We fought hard for iPad."
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 (
) instruction set. The Surface 2's NVIDIA Corp. (
) 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
for the iPad 4).
"I mean, if you wanna break down someone's door, why don't you start with AT&T, for God sakes? They make your amazing phone unusable as a phone!" -- Jon Stewart on Apple and the iPhone
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