Australia's Qantas Unveils iPhone, iPad Push
Flagship Australian airline Qantas said Thursday it was ditching BlackBerry for Apple's iPhone and rolling out in-flight iPad entertainment streaming, dealing a blow to the U.S. firm's rivals.
Qantas said it was switching 1,300 employee phones from Canada-based Research in Motion's BlackBerry to the popular Apple device after a "large majority" of workers expressed a preference for the iPhone.
"Transition from the BlackBerry to the iPhone is part of Qantas' broader mobility strategy and, once complete, will result in significant cost savings," a Qantas spokeswoman told Agence France Presse.
It is part of a wider push onto the Apple platform, which will also see pilots given iPads to replace paper charts, flight plans and manuals, mirroring moves by U.S. carriers last year that were approved by the federal aviation regulator.
Qantas is also rolling out live iPad streaming of in-flight entertainment on its domestic Boeing 767 fleet following a successful trial of the "QStreaming" technology, developed with Panasonic.
Passengers will be provided with iPads to access the in-flight system that are locked to the Qantas network, but the airline is working on making QStreaming available to passengers' own devices down the track.
American Airlines has launched a similar program with Samsung's Galaxy tablet for first and business class domestic passengers, but content is pre-loaded rather than streamed direct.
Replacing bulky seat-back entertainment systems and paper manuals with tablets is expected to deliver important energy efficiencies -- a key target for airlines as fuel prices skyrocket and governments move to reduce pollution.
Telecoms analyst Paul Budde said the Qantas shift to Apple affirmed the U.S. firm's foothold in the sector at the expense of smaller players such as Nokia and BlackBerry's maker RIM.
"The world has moved on, it's now all around the iPhone and the Android platforms," said Budde.
Google's Android platform leads smartphone sales in Australia, accounting for 57 percent to Apple's 30.5 percent in the first quarter of 2012, according to global research firm Kantar Worldpanel ComTech.
RIM has seen its global market share halved from 13.6 to 6.4 percent in the past year and said last month it would lay off 5,000 staff as it reported a U.S.$518 million loss. It holds just 0.1 percent of the Australian market.
Its Australian office said BlackBerry remained committed to the corporate sector and was "one of the most reliable and cost-effective solutions for mobile enterprise".
But Budde said the loss of Qantas as a customer would be a fatal blow for RIM's image and underscored that "there is no way back for them anymore".
"It's very significant on the level of credibility and their reputation," he added.
"Seeing large blue-chip companies such as Qantas dumping BlackBerry will only confirm to others who are on BlackBerry that they're a dead-end street. It's going to lead to significantly more defections from RIM."