A few days ago, I wrote about the stiff competition Apple’s (AAPL) latest iPads — expected to be unveiled next week — will be facing. It wasn’t that long ago that a new iPad release practically guaranteed lineups at Apple stores, when the news was full of stories about iPads supplanting laptops not just for consumers, but gaining traction in the business world as well.
When United Airlines (UAL) bought 11,000 iPads for pilots in 2011, it demonstrated the promise of Apple’s tablet — the move would save UAL 326,000 gallons of fuel each year by replacing 38 pounds of paper manuals, charts and operating manuals. But the most recent airline and tablet news has Delta (DAL) buying 11,000 Surface 2 tablets from Microsoft (MSFT) to distribute to its pilots.
This is exactly the kind of development that’s hurting Apple’s enterprise iPad gains … and it’s not an isolated case.
Consumers may still love the iPad, but businesses care more about the tablet form factor than the logo on the case. Once they got past the initial BYOD hurdle (where their employees would tote their own iPads into the office) and started to buy tablets in a more strategic fashion, enterprises changed the game.
The iPad began increasingly coming up on the short end of the stick, largely because tablets running Google’s (GOOG) Android operating system tend to be significantly cheaper than iPads.
Then there’s the Surface. Microsoft’s tablets haven’t exactly set the world on fire, but they do offer enterprise advantages based on their Windows heritage. A Delta representative interviewed by Newsday cited the ability to easily segregate personal content from corporate content on the Surface in addition to the fact that Delta’s training software is Windows-based as reasons for going with Microsoft’s tablets over iPads. And that’s despite an earlier test program where pilots were allowed to bring their own iPads.
The airline industry is filled with stories like this.