Tablets for pilots and smartphones for flight attendants are all the rage in cockpit tech these days. And competitors who are not named Apple are having a lot of luck signing big contracts.
Today, Microsoft announced a deal with Delta Air Lines for 11,000 Surface 2 tablets to be used by Delta pilots and 19,000 Nokia Lumia 820 Windows Phones to be used by flight attendants.
30,000 devices isn't the largest corporate deployment. American Airline has 33,000 tablets including iPads and Galaxy Notes. But the Delta deal sure is huge.
Pilots will use the Surface 2 tablets for charts, reference documents and checklists. All Delta cockpits will be paperless by the end of 2014, a Microsoft spokesperson told us.
Flight attendants will use the Nokia phones as an in-flight cash register to sell drinks and food. It's equipped with a credit card reader and special retail software from Microsoft and a company called Avanade.
This deal shows that Microsoft may have found a use for the RT tablet in the enterprise.
RT is a flavor of the Windows 8 operating system that runs on an ARM processor, instead of an Intel chip. ARM is used in tablets and smartphones because it offers long battery life. However, RT tablets can't run any Windows 7 software. It can only run new apps developed for Windows 8. That hasn't made it very popular with consumers or businesses who can't use the device with their huge installed base of Windows apps.
Microsoft took a $900 million write-off on Surface RT, and slashed prices to $350 from $499 to get people to buy them. The Surface 2, which will launch in a few weeks, is Microsoft's second version of the Surface RT. It's thinner lighter, and costs less.
Now it looks like the Surface 2 could have a life as a special-purpose corporate device.
Microsoft isn't the first to think of this. Samsung is pushing its tablets and phones in much the same way. Earlier this month it expanded its program to lure businesses by getting developers to write custom apps.
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