Tuesday 18 March 2014

Microsoft Surface 2 takes off with Delta Air Lines

Delta Air Lines have announced that their 11,000 pilots are being provided with Microsoft Surface 2 tablets. The tablets are replacing the small forest-worth of paper manuals traditionally carried in bulky black pilot bags. 

A typical pilot bag weighs between 38 and 40lbs, and contains about 12,000 sheets in manuals, charts, weather information, and other documentation. Delta estimates that flying all this weight costs about $13m annually in extra fuel.  Not only is all this paper heavy, but it has to be frequently updated and reprinted, which is also expensive.

The deal is important for Microsoft. Delta Air Lines is the world’s largest airline in terms of passenger numbers, and had initially trialed the electronic pilot bags using iPads. Yet Delta decided to go with the stylish Surface 2 tablets. This is good news for Microsoft, but what’s behind the decision? Why has Delta chosen Microsoft’s Surface 2 tablet over the Apple iPad? 

This is some of what was reported from the trials:
  1. The Surface’s High Definition ClearType display offers good contrast and low reflectivity, which is crucial in varying light conditions. Being able to see information on a screen clearly and consistently is  particularly important when flying an aircraft.
  2. A reliable long 10-hour battery life is necessary for pilots to be productive before and after flights, as well as in the air. 
  3. Pilots like being able to have two apps side by side on the screen. They can now more easily determine the best route, as they can see both a navigation chart and weather information at the same time.
  4. Surface 2 tablets have an impressive 17.0 x 27.5 cm screen size. Which is important is you’ve got a lot of information to get on the screen.
  5. The tablets are sleek, lightweight and less than 9mm thin – which is a lot more than can be said for the old pilot bags.
When I was at the Microsoft Partner Symposium in London last week, I met one of Delta’s pilots, Captain J Glen Hodge, and asked him how he liked the Surface 2 tablet.  “It’s very easy to find what you want, and a lot faster than finding paper-based information. The split screen is particularly useful. It’s going to make pilots’ lives a lot easier.” 

A Delta representative told me that all their devices will be set up in the same way, to make it easy for one person to borrow another’s tablet. That’s important when safety and reliability is the key concern. In the airline business, as much as any other, teamwork is crucial.

The Surface 2 tablet is just one device in a range that runs the Windows 8 operating system. Delta are also equipping their cabin staff with Nokia phones, running Windows Phone 8, with an application to process passenger shopping. All these Windows devices: phones, tablets, notebooks, and desktop devices give a consistent user experience, and can run applications designed for specific business needs. 

The opportunities for businesses using these new devices are becoming apparent. People can be more productive, wherever they happen to be – whether that’s in the airport lounge, or in the cockpit. Anatec Software helps business teams make the best use of their mobile devices, and their business data.  Get in touch if you want to explore how your team could fly higher.

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