Why Android isn’t ready for the Rugged Market

27 06 2012
Android's good but is it able to perform in a Mission Critical, Rugged Environment?

Android’s good but is it able to perform in a Mission Critical, Rugged Environment?

So as part of our Rugged Android PDA and Rugged Tablet series we’re going to ask that question of why Android is not MIssion critical and as such not yet right for the rugged market. OK so that’s a little strong and in the right hands Android can and is a very nice OS to use, but for the laymen out there what I wanted to point out were the potential pitfalls of running mission critical solutions on top of the Android Platform.

Popularity + Open Source OS = Hackers Delight!

OK, so we’ve all heard about the “security” risks of Android, but what does this really mean?  Essentially as the popularity of Android increases (in fact its the number 1 smartphone OS now), Android becomes OS of choice to hack and break.  malware is an issue on these devices and people have been downloading naughty apps aimed at breaking the open source OS.  Because Android is an opensource OS it’s also easier to understand where the chink in its armour are and so we’ve seen hackers using all manner of protocols from SMS texts to apps to get in to the sensitive data on your phone.  Google has hit back with the “Bouncer” service but this is largely aimed at the app store users and won’t really help Rugged users.

You know you have to sympathise with Microsoft.  They ceased all development about 10 years ago on their products for over 12 months in order to get their security tighter on their main products and OS’s.  It’s not the turn of someone else to manage the most popular OS and how well a job will be done of this remains to be seen!

PC Integration

I think a key issue with Android devices, having got up to speed with them the past few months, is the way they connect and interact with your PC.  They are more difficult to programme and sync up with your PC and this will bring new issues to users looking to connect and sync data in a batch mode manner.  Windows  mObile devices automatically sync and are built into most Windows platforms so we’re finding this is a key area with customers where they are asking for more help from us.

Development Tools

OK Eclipse and Java aren’t the worst tools you can use for development but most programmers have to pick up a new technology and learn it and for people who have any resident Microsoft skills it is a steep learning curve.  Windows Mobile apps were created straight out the same Visual Studio tools you use for your Web and windows solutions, everything is far more familiar and getting good, decent mobile apps working with a seamless set of technologies is far more difficult on Android devices.

Change is Bad!

Ok, so I do like change, I love to see new cars, new gadgets and new fashions but not at work!  When I have a solution running at the heart of my business, changing anything should be a big deal as it can break my whole business.  Android has no clear, defined roadmap, no clear defined support and the devices it runs on tend to unsupported.  Even manufacturers that have adopted versions of Android to help support are not helping as it’s the resellers who need to really be the experts and the differences in versions of Android are so big that older OS’s are often very lacking in the best features.  It’s big conundrum for business users.

Sorry…You want Support for that?

So some manufacturers are trying to support their android devices, but where does the great support really come from?  Not the manufacturers but the resellers.  We’re very forward thinking here at Rugged and mobile but the decision to adopt Android properly is stretching us and we’re not even certain it’ll take off.  Rugged Tablets are driving Android in the rugged market right now but with Windows 8 and especially Windows 8 RT on the horizon, are  we really willing to commit everything to Android just yet?  I think it’s a lot of change for our market and if it floods with Android too quickly it will spell trouble for customers.  You can;t just change your kit every 12 months in this game!

I think these are the biggest worries for us in our drive to ensure customers get the right product and one that will last for them.  I’d be interested really interested in what others have to say so please comment as much as you like.

The Rugged and Mobile blog.





Rugged Androids – The pros and Cons of the Android OS on a Rugged PDA

25 06 2012

Android is here, but is it good enough to beat Windows Mobile in a Rugged environment?

Android is here, but is it good enough to beat Windows Mobile in a Rugged environment?

So we’re continuing the Android theme this week, where we started off with a high level overview of Android in the rugged marketplace on rugged PDA’s. This post will take a look at the pro’s and cons of running Android on a rugged PDA or rugged tablet.

The first thing to just remember is that we’re not talking smart phone here, we’re talking about running Android in a Mission Critical environment.  The devices don’t just have to be rugged, they also have to be mission critical and rugged in 5 ways to ensure that they can be relied upon for years by companies running core solutions on them, so…there’ll be no Windows phone, no IOS and no Blackberry mentioned here!

Android V’s Windows Mobile – The Pros

  • User interface is better, so if you’re a user that needs your staff to use the PDA as a phone, PIM device and email then the Android has a better interface to use. Android has been written to use capacitive screens and fingers.  WM is still a little bit in the Stylus era!
  • Internet browsing is better on the Android.  It’s just got a better browser than Microsoft Mobile Explorer.  If you plan on running your apps through a web browser then Android is the best here.
  • Screen sizes are handled better by Android PDA’s.  Change the ratio and Android apps seem to be able to cope with it far better.
  • OS development is free, open source and far easier than Microsoft WM. Sure CE is equally free and easy but full WM OS development is tricky, locked in to a few people and not easy to bring a product to market on.

Android V’s Windows Mobile – The Cons

  • Windows Mobile is lighter, smaller and contrary to belief needs less power and RAM to run well.
  • Android requires you to run apps in local memory. With WM you can install apps onto SD cards, persistent memory and all kinds of places.
  • WM is far better at integrating with Exchange Servers and your PC.  It’s had years of syncing experience and in our view most Android devices still have trouble connecting to PC’s and syncing to servers.
  • Device SDK’s are lacking in the Android versions right now.  THe WM ones are fuller, less buggy and as such less risky to use.
  • Android OS’s change….a lot and even Android books go out of fashion in about 3 months!!  You have to look for a hardware provider that will support your version or you need to do it yourself.

Dispelling The Myths!

  • Android is a multi tasking OS though?  Yes and so is Window Mobile, in fact WM will happily run all kinds of things in the background and has been doing so for years!
  • But the app store is where it’s at, WM doesn’t have one of those?  Yes but Mission critical users develop their own apps or install bespoke services.  The App store is a moot argument here.
  • Windows Mobile is end of life though isn’t it?  absolutely not.  It’s here to stay, its called Windows Embedded Handheld 6.5 in it’s current form and Microsoft have committed fully to it, see right here!

Conclusion

So the burning questions we always get is whether Android is as good as Windows Mobile.  The short answer is, unless you have in-house expertise that can support you then no, nothing is better right now for a mission critical rugged PDA platform. Android is good, there’s no doubt about that and many people with the in-house skills are looking at it and testing Android Rugged PDA’s and there is a definite area of PDA users that will benefit from Cheaper, smaller Rugged Android devices but most people are waiting to see, not buying just yet.

The Rugged and Mobile blog.





Motorola Solutions Snaps Up Psion

20 06 2012
Motorola buys Psion

Motorola buys Psion

We interrupt this Android series for a quick announcement!

Motorola Solutions are the bit of Moto left over after Google bought their ailing Mobile business last year, and on Friday they announced that they were buying Psion, another established brand in the Rugged PDA market.  The value is said to be about $130M.  Psion ‘s turnover is about $170M annually so this is a good deal for Motorola in our view.

Psion are largely credited with inventing the PDA and Symbian, the now largely forgotten OS that dominated the mobile world for so long.  With 800+ employees it’s not as big as many people think though these days with many Asian rugged PDA manufacturers far greater in size.

Psion’s range has wavered in the past years in our opinion, with the IKON and especially field based PDA’s not selling in great numbers, although it is does carry some well-known and much-loved devices like the Work About Pro series too.

I’m personally not sure what the buyout gives Motorola in terms of the range and the business itself.  Lets hope it’s not another hunt for patents and I’m sure it’ll pan out in the months to come.

The Rugged and Mobile blog.





Rugged Androids!

18 06 2012
Will Android be the King in the Rugged Market?

Will Android be the King in the Rugged Market?

We had a look into Microsoft Windows 8 last week but in the Rugged market we do have a fair few Android devices now so I wanted to spend the next few blogs writing a series about Android in the Rugged Market.  Starting today we’ll look at Android and why we’re seeing it appear here, the versions and an overview of some manufacturers who are adopting it.  We’ll then look at Android in more depth as an OS, ask ourselves the question as to whether it’s a good thing to run Rugged Android PDA’s and tablets and lastly have a refresh of devices that are current, rugged and running Android!

I’m going to be honest with you all.  I’m not a fan of Android, but not because at heart I’m still a Microsoft bod in a largely Microsoft Rugged world.  I actually love the new OS from a programming and development perspective, just like I do IOS, PIC and Arduino where we’re even using these techs for KIOSK style projects we’re running right now, but from a strategic point of view it is going to rattle our market and I don’t like customers being confused!  With Windows 8 coming this will make matters worse, blurring lines further and with a lot of confusion in our market already it can be seen as agood and bad thing. More choice means it’s going to be harder to keep up the expertise and make sure our clients get the right kit.

So just how is Android entering the Rugged Market?  We take 3 perspectives below:

Customers Driving Android

People are adopting Android and also want rugged kit.  However the key here has actually been that we’re seeing people don’t want actual “Rugged” kit, they just want it supported so they can still have their 2 or 3 year life with it.  So everything we stand for in the rugged market is going to be tested unless we can adopt some kind of way of delivering a roadmap to customers on less rugged kit maybe.  This is the first area that we see as the challenge for Rugged Androids and we’re already seeing some burnt fingers due to this.

This will bring customers and resellers closer to manufacturers though as innovation and keeping current will need far better focus.

Manufacturers Driving Android

Some are dabbling, just sticking their toe in if you like, and we’re seeing 1 or 2 devices from Motorola (Thought they were Android now??).  Some eastern and largely unknown to the UK manufacturers have decent rugged Android strategies too and there are some non-rugged manufacturers like Mitac who are newly entering the rugged market with proper rugged tablets and PDA’s.  Some rugged manufacturers however like Pidion are really adopting Android though, putting it central to their strategy on all there PDA’s and having a string clear roadmap for new devices whilst committing to an OS version to support.  I think this strategy is good, but I’m also not sure if they will be able to deliver it if I’m being frank.  Even Android books are useless just 3 months after you buy them, so doing it on a piece of hardware designed to last for 3-5 years is a challenge!

I think Manufactruers are largely just supplying the “tin” right in an a response to the customer need.  A lot will happen here though.

Pidion currently lead the way when it comes to Rugged Android - But selling Android hardware is only half the story

Pidion currently lead the way when it comes to Rugged Android – But selling Android hardware is only half the story

Resellers driving Android

It’s easy to find, adopt and change Android kit and then stand by your own kit. Why sell someone elses when you see things so clearly and can deliver everything yourself?  So that’s one driver we’re seeing right now.  Sure the communities will be smaller and the support could be seen as putting your eggs into 1 basket but isn’t “Niche” where it’s all going right now as larger manufacturers only prove how rubbish they are anyway so why is a small reseller dedicated to your technology any worse?  This will get more and more prevalent I’ll tell you that for free!  I think the tin shifters will start to get unstuck as they realise they can’t pedal Everything at low prices whilst giving customers what they need.  Some will cope by dedicating themselves to an OS technology but I think good resellers will learn the technology, adopt it and deliver a great agnostic Experience whether on Android, Microsoft or whatever.

Android V’s whatever!

The truth is we’re already seeing the hardware become nothing but a brand choice as it all does the same, comes form the same technology and factories and all does it as well.  Android as a technology can’t be ignored but I think we’re going to have to get to grips with it as a strategy and solution.  We’ll see a Microsoft and Android divide in the rugged market but at the same time customers will demand the ability to flick at whim between the Two.

I personally think these will be really exciting times.  We definitely have a string Android strategy here, are selling both hardware and solutions already and we definitely have a few changes and bog decisions to make later this year but as long as we put the customer at the centre of this and continue to serve them, it’s all good in the hood as far as I’m concerned.

We’ll continue the series all week…

The Rugged and Mobile blog.





Windows 8 on ARM

15 06 2012
Windows RT is designed to run on ARM based Devices

Windows RT is designed to run on ARM based Devices

So yesterday we talked a little bit about Windows 8.  It looks like agreat OS for the desktop but more importantly it’s going to create a storm in the tablet market where Microsoft has been sorely lacking.  However what about the little guys of the world… Smartphones and Rugged PDA’s?

Well there is a lot going on with a product called Windows RT right now, also known as Windows on ARM or WOA!

As everyone here probably knows, Microsoft likes the X86/X64 platform.  This is where all the big stuff runs, servers, desktops, laptops and it’s also why Microsoft tablets are what they are right now.  If they want something (in my humble opinion) that runs on a slick, small, thin, light tablet that is anything like an iPad, then they really have to go ARM.  The reason?  Well basically ARM is powerful enough and sips energy which is why it’s really now the choice for anything mobile. ARM powers everything you see in the hand.  iPhones, iPADS, Android tablets and phones and indeed Microsoft WP7 all runs on the ARM architecture of one kind or another, those guys in Cambridge really got it right for the mobile world!

Anyway Windows RT will be a version of Windows 8 for ARM devices but do we know where we stand on which devices it’ll run yet?  Well the short answer is no, but looking at some clues I think we can take a shot at answering this.

Firstly it has been said that it’ll only run apps downloaded through the Windows App Store.  This will be no good at all for the Rugged PDA market which is based on fully open, tweakable devices, but will be perfect for the smart phone crowd.

Secondly The specs for Windows RT says that it must use a minimum 5 point touch screen.  This points directly at capacitive screens which as we all know aren’t the tool for Rugged PDA’s with users wearing gloves and taking signatures, largely with the other end of a biro pen!

There are more but I think we’ve seen enough to say that this OS isn’t going to be the dedicated Mission Critical, Rugged OS that we will be using in the rugged market.  What it will do is blur the lines and make it a lot more difficult to choose once again as I think this OS is going to be one to watch.  Along with Android the whole market is set to get a lot more cluttered in the next 12 months.

The Rugged and Mobile blog.








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