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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



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RE: The pilots can go f*** themselves
By Micronite on 10/1/2013 7:03:32 PM , Rating: 5
That's the beauty of coding for Win8/RT. As long as you're coding in .NET, your code should be cross-compatible and it won't matter what the hardware looks like in the next 10 yrs.


RE: The pilots can go f*** themselves
By ResStellarum on 10/1/13, Rating: -1
By amanojaku on 10/1/2013 10:52:42 PM , Rating: 2
If you're looking for a platform-independent SDK, my guess is that QT Framework is at or near the top of the list. It does pretty much everything.

Desktop Platforms

Windows (XP, Vista, 7, 8)
Linux/X11 (GNU, Linux, FreeBSD, HP-UX, Solaris, AIX, etc...)
Mac OS X

Embedded platforms

Embedded Linux (DirectFB, EGLFS, KMS, and Wayland)
Windows Embedded (Compact and Standard)
Real-Time Operating Systems, such as QNX, VxWorks and INTEGRITY

Mobile platforms

Android
iOS
Windows 8 (WinRT)
BlackBerry 10


By inighthawki on 10/2/2013 1:46:52 AM , Rating: 4
That depends, are you referring to using the native API for Linux? In which case you're targeting cross-platform, but only a single architecture.

.NET allows you to target any architecture running windows, so it's somewhat of an orthogonal direction, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with developing for the most widely used platform at the time being. It's not like it's morally wrong to not develop something on closed or proprietary platforms.

If you wanted to be truly cross platform and cross architecture, you can try to target Java or some scripting languages, but then you lose many low level optimizations, so it may only make sense if your application is not real-time or performance sensitive.

Point being, there is no one single answer to everything. Writing code for free/open platforms doesn't solve every problem, and it doesn't make you any better than anyone else. In fact, I believe that just thinking so makes you a significantly worse programmer as it's showing that you don't understand these fundamental concepts.


RE: The pilots can go f*** themselves
By osalcido on 10/2/2013 1:59:54 AM , Rating: 2
That's not true.. Windows RT does not run full blown .NET. It's comparable to mobile Java framework. You have to specifically make a Metro-style app for it to run in RT


By inighthawki on 10/2/2013 12:21:17 PM , Rating: 3
I think you're confusing concepts here. Windows RT contains the full .NET package, and is not at all comparable to the mobile Java framework. The reason it is limited to metro only is because Microsoft enforces a restriction on what can run on RT for security purposes. An app cannot run unless it is signed with a digital certificate by Microsoft, which they only do on Store apps. If you jailbreak the device or find a way to sign the apps, then you can compile and run anything you want, including C++ code compiled directly for ARM.


"Mac OS X is like living in a farmhouse in the country with no locks, and Windows is living in a house with bars on the windows in the bad part of town." -- Charlie Miller














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