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WHAT ABOUT GOOGLE’S ANDROID OS? Google has the overall lead in overall operating system installs on all devices, as shown in the chart to the right (courtesy of Statista and Gartner). What does this mean to the aviation market, and specifically the aviation market for tablets dedicated for use with aircraft operations and support? Not very much. Google has a fractured business approach to the Android

OS, and allows its hardware OEM licenses (Samsung, Lenovo, HTC, etc.) to basically lock in on specific versions of Android due to design reasons, so that owners of such devices cannot upgrade to newer OS versions that have greater capabilities — a major problem. Software vendors need to support multiple versions of an application and this raises costs and makes upgrades very difficult. You can expect Google to solve this strategic blunder eventually and to provide a stronger product approach to compete with Apple and Microsoft in the corporate/industrial marketplace. If you read through some of the general aviation discussion forums on this topic, you will find many supporters of Android OS-based tablets for various reasons. One is price and another is the ability to upgrade or expand the memory of most Android devices. Another major plus is that many such devices support USB and other data ports, as well as having more options than an Apple-controlled environment can provide in the iTunes store. There were no specific figures on the penetration of such tablets in aviation, and they are certainly used far less than iPads.


Aerospace and aviation are considered a small niche market in the universe of tablets and smart devices. According to Gartner, there were 195 million tablets sold globally in 2013, with Google Android-based tablets having ≈62 percent of the overall market, Apple taking a 36 percent cut, and Microsoft taking a 2.1 percent share, leaving the remaining 0.01 percent to others. In 2013, Microsoft’s tablet sales improved its market share from nearly zero percent, but obviously it still remains rather small. Windows 8 has failed to grab significant interest beyond the PC platform in the tablet market, and its new ecosystem still failed to capture consumer interest on tablets as well as in the smartphone markets. If the overall aviation market (airlines, airports, MROs,

etc.) accounts for 150,000 to 250,000 tablets procured per year, and private pilots and industry personnel (those who purchase them outside of a company buying them one) might account for another 25,000 to 50,000 tablets per year, the very rough (completely unsubstantiated) estimate of 300,000 tablets is 0.015 percent (yes, roughly 1/10th of one percent). This is a very small percentage of overall tablet sales.

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For non-Apple tablets, it will be a struggle to chip away at the lead that the iPad has built. The chart below shows some of the recent large installations of tablets and attests to this. (This was for EFBs, maintenance, and various IFE or cabin uses.)

Entity Alitalia

American Airlines Alaska Airlines British Airways

British Airways CityFlyer

Delta Airlines Emirates EVA Air

JetBlue Airways NetJets Qantas

Qatar Airways

Southwest Airlines US Air Force United Airlines

1,000 2,500

Selected 2,200

Selected 550

18,000 11,000

The Google Android camp (which includes Samsung and Lenovo/Motorola) is making inroads into the cabin with devices meant for passenger entertainment, while the Microsoft camp (which includes all PC vendors) has won victories in EFBs and cabin POS uses. Android has also gained a following amongst the general aviation pilots to some degree. The next battle, especially once each of these camps launches new products this year, should become more interesting and drive further innovation. There is no reason that future IFE systems cannot support passengers ordering meals, drinks and other amenities. As airlines look to better serve customers, as well as drive more revenues, they can make use of tablet-based apps fulfilling this. Tablet OEMs and software providers are aware of this, which is why niche markets such as aviation will continue to grow in importance. Microsoft can be counted on to use its dominance in corporate IT departments to leverage how such devices can be managed in large enterprises, and Apple will undoubtedly keep adding functionality to how enterprises can match some this (since it is behind Microsoft in this aspect). Google needs to change its strategy of allowing tablet hardware OEMs lock on to old versions of Android, causing headaches to IT support personnel and app developers over time.

Apple iPads/ iPhones

10,000 1,400 2,000

Any Android Device

Selected 17,000

Any MS Windows 8 devices

Selected 30,000



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