It may not be the most popular tablet around, but the Surface 2 might soon be a fixture in airplanes and pilots’ equipment. The FAA has just authorized Microsoft‘s oft belittled tablet for pilot use in all phases of flights.
This is subtly different from the other FAA action that approved the use of electronic devices in all phases of flights. While that allowed passengers to use their tablets and gadgets, this latest authorization allows pilots to add the Surface 2 as part of their Electronic Flight Bags or EFBs, particularly in Class 1 and Class 2 EFBs, which usually include commercial off the shelf devices like laptops or handhelds.
Of course, this approval doesn’t mean that airlines will start offering Surface 2 tablets as the de facto gadget for their pilots. FAA authorization only means that when and if an airline asks for approval to get the Surface 2 in their list, the process will go much faster since Microsoft has already passed the FAA’s standards. Whether airlines actually start adopting the tablets into their system is a different question entirely.
Microsoft might be in need of such new customers for its latest generation of tablets. The Surface 2, which is the successor of the Surface RT, has not exactly been the wild success that Microsoft has always hoped it would be. While the Surface 2 does indeed represent an improvement over its predecessor, it still exhibits one of the major criticisms of that device line.
In the end, it all boils down to software. While it has a slightly different name, it shares the same software lineage of Windows RT, the ARM-based OS that Microsoft has put out. Users, and by that we mean pilots, will have very few choices when it comes to apps they can use, which may be a factor in favor of management. That said, if Microsoft is keeping a very close eye on this new target market, then it might take a more active role in making sure that certain apps, especially those related to the industry, will become available and compatible with the Surface 2.