New Microsoft Windows Embedded Operating Systems released

31 03 2011

Windows Embedded

So the newly merged Windows Mobile and Embedded or CE teams inside of Microsoft have been working hard and Windows Embedded Handheld 6.5 is the first in a line of new OS’s that has been released into the market.

I wanted to cover off exactly what this means to anyone with a rugged PDA, with special reference to Windows Mobile 6.5 users.

Firstly WM6.5 is not going anywhere just yet.  I said about 6 months ago that WM6.5 was going to be here for about 18 months and I still stand by that, however Microsoft have moved the goalposts a little bit by launching this new embedded OS in my view.  So why have they done this and what does it mean?

Windows Embedded Compact 7.0

Windows Embedded Compact 7.0

This OS is designed to take over from CE6.0.  However it also marks a departure from a code base that can be run on PC and mobile architecture, with WEC 7.0 now focussing solely on mobile types of device.  It is released to OEM manufacturers, has a 10 year g’teed lifespan and is designed primarily for embedded systems.  CE was always a quick and cheap way of getting a rugged PDA to market and in my view is the only reason we still see it on devices today, other than where legacy compatibility is required.

My personal take is that it is unlikely that we’ll see WEC on a rugged PDA at all because it’s not complex enough for these types of devices.  Where we will see it though is on thin client, cloud supported devices where you will hardly know Microsoft is being used.  Expect your Fridge panel or any embedded, connected type of device to be using WEC if Microsoft is the chosen technology.

Windows Embedded Handheld 6.5

Windows Embedded Handheld 6.5

Now this OS is something us Rugged PDA folks need to know about. Originally Microsoft slated this as WEH 7.0 and it was due Q2/3 2011.  However it got mysteriously dropped from the Microsoft roadmap later last year.  It’s now back as WEH 6.5 and it is the successor to Windows Mobile 6.5.

WEH comes in 2 flavours, standard and professional, for phone enabled and disabled devices and it comes with a fair raft of new API’s in its SDK all designed to make for a true line of business OS for mobile devices.  WEH is easily ported to from any Windows Mobile targeted application and it is the OS of choice for us Rugged PDA Folk.  Calling it Windows Mobile 7.0 would probably position it far better but Microsoft want to stress the true LOB positioning of this OS.

We’re just starting to see it appear now on new Rugged PDA’s with the first one in fact already having been announced, see the thoughtfully named Honeywell Dolphin 99EX blog here.

Current until 2014 and supported until 2019 it is the roadmapped OS that we need in the Rugged PDA mission critical world and it will be as easily developed for from right within Visual Studio.

Windows Embedded Handheld 6.5

Windows Phone 7

So WP7 is the last mobile focussed OS from Microsoft and in a nutshell, forget about this if you’re looking for a line of business solution.  WP7 is for the consumer smartphone market.  It will move fast to serve a fickle and feature rich, often Fad driven market and it is not considered a wise choice to run your line of business applications on.

Conclusion

Line of business Mobile device = WEH 6.5

Flashy smartphone device = WP7

Thin client, cheap and completely tolerable OS = WEC 7.0

Just ask if you need any help!

The Rugged and Mobile blog.





Getac MH132 Rugged Smartphone – Uncovered

30 03 2011
Getac MH1322 Rugged Smartphone

Getac MH1322 Rugged Smartphone

When us “rugged” folk hear the word “Smartphone” all it conjures up are the 100′s of customers we see every year who used the wrong device for their business application which is now costing them dear.  Rugged means a lot more than IP Ratings and Drop specs and you can see our ruggedness series here for more about that.

Getac are positioned here as a proper, tablet/laptop company, so what did we think when they decided to launch a Rugged Smartphone into the market?  I’m going to be honest about this, if you want to go and read about the blurb then there are other reviews from the same old publications and paid for sites that will give you the same “spec sheet” information as always.  Here we give you the lowdown on everything we sell with a sprinkling of our expertise and experience added in and the MH132 has some areas that we feel also need bringing to your attention:

Overall Design

The Getac MH132 is not actually that small (See below for comparisons), it has a large case with tiny looking screen in it, PDA format with only 4 hard buttons.  It’s also a larger device than most of what we categorise as “small” and it is larger than anything in the semi-rugged category.  The design is not going to set anyone on fire as it should do in the Smartphone category, and the colour is very retro 1990′s too!

Old Processor

OK lets move on to the stuff that matters.  The ARM6 MSM7227 CPU is old, and we only tend to see this in older devices or cheaper kit bought out from Dopod or HTC (Same company).  Whilst it was a decent all-rounder a year or so ago, it’s not a great chip, never set anything alight and is not actually designed for smartphones like the newer XScale or Qualcomm 7600/ARM9 + series are.  This CPU is not going to compete against the Intermec CS40 or the ARM9 and PXA320′s seen in most new devices today.

LCD - Small

The LCD is 3.2” in size which might be OK for some but it is small for a PDA style device where there is no hardware keyboard and you just have to ask our motorola ES400 customers all about this.  The onscreen keyboard will be small and from our feedback on a range of devices this could be a show stopper for many.

LCD – Odd Size = Porting Issues

More concerning though is the HVGA resolution which is a rather odd size for a screen and will definitely present a challenge for applications that are generally built to run at QVGA or VGA in the rugged market, which share the same screen same ratio.  HVGA is actually not quite specified 100% as a standard for obvious reasons but here it’s a 480×320 resolution.

The big question here is how your existing applications will “Stretch” in only 1 way to fit this screen?  >NEt ancoring and stretching will not be able to cope with this automatically and the screen estate will be pretty bespoke in this market.

The LCD is also covered by a flush plastic cover which at first does give you an extra bit of ruggedness to the screen.  However in a rugged scenario this panel is going to get scratched and hinder your workers if you’re not super careful and you need to make sure you can get spare case fronts easily to make this approach a safe one.  A recessed screen with a protector could have been 1 less thing to worry about here though.

No Barcode Scanner

Our two top-selling semi-rugged devices have camera based Barcode scanners, whereas the small fully rugged pda’s have to have a built-in dedicated scanner to be called “Rugged PDA”  The Getac is missing this and to our knowledge here has no camera based scanner .

Tiny Battery

If there’s one thing that sets Rugged or Semi Rugged PDA’s aside in this market its battery sizes and life.  The battery in the Getac MH132 is tiny.  The standard battery is 1030mAh which is small for even stand alone GPS units these days and even Smartphones carry 1200-15000mAh batteries now.  The extended battery is 2000mah which is again very small.  To put this into perspective, the ES400 has 1500 and 3080mah batteries, the Pidion BM170 has 1600 or 3200mAh batteries and the CS40 a 1430mAh one.  I worry if the battery is going to be up to much at all in this device.

It’s big!

It’s actually quite large in this class of device, here are some comparisons with leading devices (l, w,d):

Getac MH132:                136         x              70           x              25

Motorola ES400:          129         x              60           x              16.5

Pdion BM170:                 130         x              72           x              17

Intermec CS40:              133         x              63           x              24 (Includes EA11 2D barcode scanner)

Every mm counts in this area of the market especially depths and lengths.

No USB Host

A small issue for some but this device is being targeting at markets where serial connections from the device are commonly used to talk to other devices so we’re slightly confused at this and it normally points to bought off the shelf designs being used.

Micro USB Port = NOT RUGGED

Ok so the Getac MH132 is not alone here but it also harps on a lot about being “rugged” and this brings me on to the USB port used for syncing and charging.  Micro-USB is more rugged in terms of connect/disconnect cycles than mini USB but an IP65 device can only be IP65 if the rubber covers are attached properly on the device or water gets in through USB ports.  The reality of devices we see in the field is that the rubber casings get easily damaged or lost and users do not realise that the moment the connector is in the device the IP rating is gone!!  Try charging your IP65 phone in a dusty environment and see what happens after 2-3 months.  I just can’t understand why you would go to all the trouble to create a screwed down battery casing if you can make the device non IP rated every time you charged or synced the device?

Mini USB is also connected directly to the main board and it will snap easily, it’s not considered a line of business “rugged” connector and whilst some people think a proprietary rugged port is trying to lock customer into buying their own accessories, it is and for good reason.  If customer s can use standard connectors like this then end users are going to be using cheap cables off Ebay, and vehicle chargers and adaptors that are all out of control of the manufacturer and potential achilles heels to your mobile solution as they put their estate at risk by using cheap and unsuitable accessories.

Conclusion

So the word Smartphone turns out to be clearly the right word to use here, and I have to be honest that I am left quite puzzled with the MH132 as I can’t see how this device is going to work in this market.  People aren’t looking for a waterproof smartphone, if they were we’d get more sales of the Motorola Defy.  The low spec is also not up to smartphone Standards.  The term “Rugged” on the other hand is a stretch in my view when you scratch deeper than the IP and drop specs.  In a funny way I think I’ve hit the nail on the head here because the biggest problem with this device is that unless it comes in at a sub £400 price tag to the customer, where it is basically selling as a “rugged” semi-rugged device, it’s not going to have a USP at all.   We are seeing RRP’s of £700 in some channels but this is unconfirmed at this point.

You all know by now that we stand out here.  We’re bold but honest and truthful with a business model that extends far beyond that of profit and costs savings.  I hope to have covered the areas that most won’t be telling you about here.

The Rugged and Mobile blog.





Getac MH132 Announced – Rugged advice from a rugged reseller

24 03 2011
Getac MH1322 Rugged Smartphone

Getac MH1322 Rugged Smartphone

We try and announce as much as we can both good or bad that comes into the markets we serve and the Small Rugged PDA market is a market that’s going to be a bit of a bloodbath in the next year or so as we see lots of manufacturers jumping on the bandwagon.  The problem in this market is that many manufacturers are trying to provide a small or semi rugged PDA that simply enters them into what is seen as the “market to be in” and the trouble with this is that it’s risking turning a much-needed market into one that is almost going to be as confusing and risky as the smartphone market has become, especially when looked at from a Line of Business point of view.  When I refer to bloodbath, it’s not the manufacturers blood that I’m wiping off my shirt, it’s the customers as its them that we’re trying to steer away from making the same old mistakes of buying the wrong device, simply because of how it’s positioned.

Indeed the MH132 is in fact referred to as a Rugged “Smartphone” which is the first interesting point to make about this little rugged PDA.  Smartphone it is not.  It’s not going to be bought by people looking for a more rugged mobile phone, where the hunting ground of the Motorola ES400 is.  It’s certainly not going to be taking sales away from iPhones and HTC’s so it is squarely in our Small Rugged PDA category here at Rugged and Mobile.

The Getac MH132 Rugged Smartphone slipped on to the market very quietly but was officially launched last week.  We haven’t had much to go on here so we turn to what we can find and use our own experience and contacts to give our customers the knowledge they need to make an informed decision.  A quick glance at the specs seems to bring up some interesting, some rather odd and some downright poor features so we’ll be looking at the device in a little more depth tomorrow and uncovering everything you need to know if you’re in the market for something like this.

Getac are a Rugged Tablet and Laptop manufacturers first and foremost, in fact they’re our go to guys for good, decent kit in this area. Rugged PDA’s however are a different kettle of fish and we do see this as a bit of a “curveball” device entering Getac into a new market.

We probably have only 2 or 3 devices in this market so far that provide into these categories honestly and competently for the customers so it will be interesting to see how Getac fairs against the devices that are doing well in a market that is a tough one to get in to in our view.

For now there’s still no price, still no solid availability for supply so you’ll have to forgive us if we don’t seem particularly excited about what’s on offer here at first glance!  More to come…

The Rugged and Mobile blog.





Top 5 Rugged PDA’s for Hospitals

22 03 2011

To round off our top 5 picks this week of blogging we’re going to look at Rugged PDA’s for hospitals or lab environments.

We’re servicing more and more NHS customers and we think we have a good idea of what Hospital PDA clients are looking for so what does a device need to look like for this category?  Firstly and rather surprisingly we’re not going to consider “Anti-Microbial” coated devices.  Despite being aimed squarely at hospitals, we’re being told by most we talk to that these are not desirable to them any longer.  Odd it may seem….fact it is.  The Rugged PDA’s in this category need to be small and light with multiple ways to carry devices.  Remember that nurses, doctors and bedside staff tend to wear scrubs that have no pockets and elasticized trousers!  The devices need barcode scanning ability, but if it can be specced out this is a bonus.  WiFi is important here so Summit or Cisco approved chips and software to help keep connected to the NHS wireless LAN is a must and lastly the devices need to be WAN-less (No GSM/3G) as they are used largely indoors but again the option is useful to have for some staff who tend to work outside the LAN area.

Our top 5 currently are:

Janam XM66

The Janam XM66 ticks pretty much all the boxes.  Its small, light has a large screen and multiple keyboard options.  The device has a great battery, warehouse style charging cradles which make it easy to not forget to charge them up and the device has a neat carry holster that can be strapped so no belts of pockets are needed.  The Xm66 is WLan only but it is Cisco CCX approved and works very well and interestingly you can also spec out the BT and WiFi on some models making this device radio-less which is useful for some areas of the Hospital.  The scanner can be specced as none, 1D or 2D as a firmware upgrade which means you can invest in 1D now and worry about 2D later which is a bonus to hospitals where money is always keen.  They even do an antimicrobial version but don’t tell the NHS that!!  The price is around the £500 mark for the none scanner option.

Pidion BM170

The Pidion BM170 is being sold into a number of NHS clients and we first started selling it to the engineering teams where jobs were being picked up by cleaning and repair teams across the hospitals.  However due to its small size, super lightweight and carry case options the medical side of things are starting to look closely at this device and the BM150R too for WM6.1 requirements.  The BM170 comes in WAN and WAN-less formats, and is a very good all round Semi-Rugged PDA that is a compelling solution at under £500.

Motorola MC5590 / MC55A0

This device is the MC55 without a GSM/GPRS WAN chip and a better WLan cip making it a very strong device for indoor use.  The new model has an AB coating as an option and where we’ve tested this it has done very well indeed.  It is the largest device here but for those needing something a bit more substantial, it is the best choice/.  It’s the most expensive device here.

Honeywell 6100

This is the only Honeywell in our top 5 lists, maybe if they stopped focussing on bespoke devices for UPS in the states they might remember they have other customers here in Europe and they have let go of the button somewhat in my view.  However Honeywell does have roots firmly in the medical market and correct me if I’m wrong I think they invented the Anti-microbial devices (Shhhh I didn’t say that!).  The 6100 is everything you need again here.  Small, light, rugged.  The Windows CE OS is what probably hampers it most but i the right ands this is a compelling product.  It has a good price point at £600 but remember no Windows Mobile here.

Partnertech OT-100

The curveball here as the OT-100 is not suited to medical scenarios at all.  However it is suited well for more hospitality type solutions which are gaining popularity in schools and hospitals.  It is rugged enough to wash under a tap, despite looking like an iPhone and it does have a Windows Mobile version now making it perfect for certain portering and bedside care solutions.  We’re also looking at the tertiary market with this device and it is holding up.  It doesn’t sell in numbers but the 4.3″ LCD is nice and it does have some unique features that make it worth a look depending on what you’re using the device for and feedback has been that this device is perceived by patients as less intimidating due to its look, take that comment as you want.

We did consider Socket Somo, but they’re all over the place at the moment with direct sales appearing on their website and through Expansys, an aging device and little in the way of distributor support which all leads to increased risk in our view.  Their solutions for scanning are not great, not rugged and the devices here do it far better now at a cheaper price.

That’s it we’ll do another top 5 listing later in the year that will update our views and of course keep you in the know!

The Rugged and Mobile blog.





Top 5 Warehouse Rugged PDA’s

21 03 2011
Warehouse Rugged PDA's

Warehouse Rugged PDA’s

Warehouse Rugged PDA’s are the penultimate category we’re going to look at in this blog week and whilst some of these devices can be considered for field mobile applications, and often have been where specific requirements or high ruggedness have been required, we’re going to look at them from the warehousing angle.

A good Rugged PDA for warehousing has to have multiple barcode scanner options and these scanners have to be good or configurable due to the poor lighting conditions you find in the warehouse environment.  They also have to be ergonomic so that you can use the device to scan intensively all day, very tough and we also like to see a raft of accessories that make it easy to charge and manage the hardware in a “depot” style manner.  Lets have a look at our top 5 right here:

Intermec CK3

Intermec’s CK3 simply wins this category for us hands down.  Intermec have remained strong in their warehouse offering, whilst they were focussing on their field mobile CN series Rugged PDA’s and their CK series has been at the fore-front of this.  The CK3 is strong, durable, has a plethora of accessories and 3 barcode scanner options.  There’s a 1D standard laser scanner that’s very competent, a long ranger scanner and a “Near/Far dual range scanner that’s highly configurable and has remained quite unique on the market until very recently.  Add to this the software you get with the devices to help you manage and provision, RFID options that are gaining momentum in the warehouse arena and the very low pricing and this warehouse oriented rugged handheld is too much to live with.

Psion Workabout Pro

The Psion WAP is simply one of the most loved devices in this category and it shows by the fact there are always at least 2 generations of the devices current at any one time, driven by sheer demand for accessories and additions.  The WAP is also comparatively inexpensive and where it scores is in the magnitude of accessories/configs you can snap on to the device itself making for a very configurable rugged PDA that you see in vans as much as in the warehouse.  It’s scan engines aren’t as good as the CK’s, it’s not quite built as well either and the service is more expensive which are the 3 reasons it made 2nd place not 1st.

Motorola MC9090G

This is Motorola’s heavyweight rugged PDA and the “G” or “Gun” version is the device you often see lying on those trollies in Asda or Tesco.  The MC9090 has been around for years and the sign of a good established device is when it doesn;t change much over the years.  It has finally now been discontinued as a complete range (Long and short keyboards) but the G remains recently upgraded and current which is testament to its popularity and ruggedness.  OK, it’s a Motorola and it has a few very big clients but in my view it’s not just a brand thing, this device is very capable, very configurable and has everything you need for a low risk warehousing solution.  Why is it 3rd then?…The price is almost double the devices in 1st and 2nd place and the device is nowhere near twice as good, in fact the Psion and Intermec are at least as good at half the price.

Pision BIP-7000

This time Pidion get the “curveball” newcomer accolade in this category.  Despite being recently released, we’ve been playing with this device on a few large projects for a few months now and have enough feedback for us to feel that we can pass back the comments being made about this device.  The Pidion BIP-7000 is slightly different in this class and I think it’s a little bit more generic and field derived this is seemingly working for some who do not necessarily need a device that’s too heavily focussed on scanning.  The smaller size and 5 scan buttons make it perfect for more “picking” style solutions and for user to carry and use in the warehouse and mobile environments.  It’s new, powerful and perhaps the most unique feature is its super low pricing that will make it worth a look in this category.  Everyone who has had our demo device won’t look at anything else and I only see this device climbing the ranks here as it matures in this market.

Psion NEO

Lastly the Psion NEO takes the 5th spot here giving Psion 2 devices in this category.  This was the argument device with both the Janam XG100 and Motorola MC300o being strong contenders so why did the Neo take this spot?  Well because we’re different and bold here and unlike the Janam and Motorola, the NEO is too.  Like the BIP-7000 it’s small, in fact very small, it also has everything you need in a warehouse device with gun handles and in fact it is simply a shrunken down warehouse PDA.  This again makes it inexpensive, more suitable for multi-scenario solutions and if presented correctly can make a compelling solution.  So why 5th, not 1st?  Well firstly we don’t sell enough, in fact no-one does and this device has also had its troubles in the past with casing design being at fault and cracking when dropped but these should have been resolved now.  Despite the NEO being here for 18 months now, we think that, whilst great on paper and great in our offices, it still has a lot to prove in the field.

So there we have it.  We’re going to take a look at Hospital focussed devices in the last of this series tomorrow and as always give us a shout if you want to discuss anything you find here.

The Rugged and Mobile blog.








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