Windows Phone 8 deployment flies high at Delta Air

Delta has completed a Nokia 820 Windows Phone 8 deployment to 19,000 flight attendants -- a much-needed endorsement for Microsoft's mobile phone.

Delta Airlines has completed a 19,000 Windows Phone 8 deployment for in-flight purchases, giving Microsoft's mobile device a much-needed vouch.

"Nineteen thousand [Windows 8 phones] is a drop in the bucket in the context of the mobile marketplace," said Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT, an IT consulting firm in Hayward, Calif. "However, gaining the support of enterprise clients like Delta is critical to the success of Windows Phone, since it doesn't seem to be winning over many fans among consumers."

Windows-based smartphones have slowly gained ground in a market dominated by iOS and Android-based devices, but the overall market share remains in the single digits, according to the latest data from IDC, a research firm in Framingham, Mass.

During the second quarter of 2013, Windows smartphones came in third place with 3.7% market share, Android-based devices garnered 79.3% market share, and Apple iOS captured 13.2% market share. BlackBerry dropped to fourth place with 2.9% market share. The remaining 1% included Linux and Symbian-based systems.

Delta's flight attendants will use the Nokia Lumia 820 Windows smartphones to conduct retail transactions for customers on board the flight. The devices connect using Wi-Fi and AT&T's 4G LTE network to a custom point of sale (POS) system developed by Avanade Inc. on the Microsoft Dynamics for Retail mobile POS platform.

The Windows 8 phones will provide flight attendants with credit-card processing for in-flight purchases, enable them to send e-receipts to a customer's email and in general offer quicker transaction processing times.

The company's previous in-flight sales process involved a specialized purchasing device that was kept on the aircraft. It was in need of an update, said a Delta spokesperson.

Each flight attendant has his or her own Windows 8 phone, which can be used to access the Internet and for email for personal use, the spokesperson said.

It is unclear whether flight attendants will switch from using their personal mobile phones to the Nokia 820 Windows device as their primary devices for both work and personal use. Delta does not have any numbers to share, said the spokesperson.

"Modern workers have a vast number of phone and other mobile device options to choose from, [and] they may not take [too] kindly to being forced to use Windows phones," said King. "If a worst-case scenario like an epidemic of 'accidental' loss or breakage came to pass, it could be deeply embarrassing and costly to Delta and Microsoft."

Windows Phone 8 deployment a bright spot for Microsoft

Delta's Windows Phone 8 deployment is a much-needed bright spot for Microsoft as it suffers through recent turbulent changes.

In July, Microsoft took a $900 million charge against unsold inventory of Surface RT during its fourth fiscal quarter, resulting in a lawsuit. It reorganized the company around a devices and services focus by centralizing its business and consolidating its engineering operations, and more recently, CEO Steve Ballmer disclosed that his retirement would take place in the next 12 months.

In addition, this week Microsoft released its "nearly finished" Windows 8.1 and Windows 8.1 RT RTM to PC hardware vendors. However, the company simultaneously angered its developer community by requiring them to wait until the generally available version of Windows 8.1 ships on Oct. 18.

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