Why mobile operating systems don’t matter anymore

30 07 2014

It seems odd to do a whole series on mobile operating systems then follow end it with this oddly named blog but I wanted to underline the whole thing by just showing where OS is going and 2014 and beyond.

At the end of the day I’ve switched mobile device about twice every year and have various ones for various scenarios of my life.  OK, so I’m in the business and i’m also a bit of a gadget freak but at the end of the day I wouldn’t do it unless it was easy.  What I’m trying to say is that mobile OS’s have evolved these days to being so similar in many respects that switching from one to the other is now simple. I have a Samsung note 3, sporting Android v4.4 as my every day phone right now but at the weekends I revert to my smaller, more DIY and going out friendly iphone 4S.  All my emails are on both devices, all my data is stored on Drop box anyway including all my photos and my appointments and contacts are all kept safe and sound via a google account that syncs to all my devices, whatever they are.

However when we come to the Enterprise world, typically people are using devices for 1 or 2 specific purposes, the devices are often locked down to that and as such the users probably don’t know what OS they have on them anyway. Add to this many businesses don’t have, can’t get or are removing their own OS expertise as it becomes too difficult and indeed expensive to keep up so OS choice is ironically becoming less of an issue in the Enterprise world or at least should do as the whole provision of a mobile solution is outsourced to the right technology partners.

So that brings me to what’s going on in the future then? Well 4G is a driving force as it is the technology that might finally make our mobile devices 100% connected.  Once this happens why would we use an app over a good old optimised website?  That means we can all use familiar web and database technologies to build anything we want on mobile and not worry about the OS that is using them.  Sure we’ll have browser issues like we do now, but these represent a far easier issue than having the wrong OS or app.

We’re already seeing this shift with things like Firefox OS which runs it’s whole operating system within the Firefox browser and as hybrid frameworks get better and better at providing developers the lower hardware levels needed to unlock all the features of a device I think we’ll see a fundamental shift in features and solutions and the benefits they bring rather than a focus on the technology they run on.

So I would ask are businesses going to even care about OS in the future or a solution that just works for them?



Choosing a mobile OS for Enterprise – Top 10 check list questions

28 07 2014
Every mobile OS brings certain benefits and issues with it.

Every mobile OS brings certain benefits and issues with it.

We had some great questions last week about mobile OS so I decided to write a few more blogs about some of them.  Today we have a top 10 check list to help you choose the right mobile OS for your enterprise.

1. Need an app?

Have you already got an app or solution that works on a particular OS.  If so then you might be tied to the OS already.

2. Expertise available

What expertise have you got at your disposal?  Do you have .NET developers already?  Will IOS or Android resource be easy to find and available within your budget?

3. Integration

Perhaps one of Microsoft’s few remaining big USP’s is to make sure your mobile devices can integrate and communicate effectively, securely and easily with your back end servers.

4. Familiarity

How familiar does the device need to be?  Having a bunch of Android loving Engineers might mean adopting the same OS for their mobile work tool is the clever option, saving on training and even end user satisfaction.

5. Choice of devices

Android, IOS and Windows Mobile will all have restrictions on the type of device you can use.  IOS only runs on non-rugged Apple kit, Android is here but tends to run on more smartphone form factor rugged devices and Windows mobile still has the greatest choice, but for how long?

6. Upgrade paths

Do you understand the upgrade paths of each OS, how long will it be current and how easy will it be to update and stay supported?

7. Features

What kind of features do you need for your mobile application.  If RFID is core then IOS is out.  If you need a feature packed OS with the latest abilities then Windows Mobile is perhaps not the way to go.

8. What will the device be used for?

Make sure you know what the device is going to be used for.  If it’s going to be kept open so users can use the phone, texts email etc then things like familiarity might become more important. If it’s doing 1 task and locked to that task then developing an app quickly with resources you already have might be the most important factor to consider.

9. Data capture features

Which OS is best for building in barcode scanning or RFID features into my application.  Android takes a very different “intent” based approach to the older SDK way Windows Mobile handles these kinds of features.  IOS is reliant on the supplying hardware.

10. Supporting applications

Whilst enterprise solutions tend to not use the “App store” of an OS, it still might be important to know just how easily you can get certain process driving apps on top your devices.  It’s also important to understand if the essential apps you need to use for Mobile device management or Kiosking are available for the chosen OS.



Choosing the right Mobile Operating System

21 07 2014
What mobile OS's are there?

What mobile OS’s are there?

Good morning from a gloriously and rather unusual sunny Liverpool! 7AM and 18 degrees Celsius, you can’t ask for more!!!

Never before have we seen such diversity in real industry strength operating systems and whilst choice is normally a good thing, too much of a good thing can often be confusing and paralysing when it comes to actually making that choice.  Mobile operating systems used to be easy. Windows mobile was the go to OS, some liked CE but even that dried up so everyone knew where they stood.  These days there are a plethora of OS’s and this week I wanted to make sure you understand exactly where you stand with them, starting today with an overview of all the mobile OS’s with their pros and cons.


Windows mobile is still the live operating system from Microsoft and these days it has been rebadged “Windows Embedded Handheld 6.5.” It’s still largely the same OS from when WM 6.5 was launched way back in 2009 but to be honest it was never meant to be anything more than a stop-gap OS so its not much different to WM 6.1 which celebrates it’s 6 year anniversary this year.

Windows Embedded 8 has been talked about more recently due to some handsets finally sporting and testing it but licenses are extremely restricted for the OS and as I sit here today, I know of no WE8 handsets that are freely available for purchase just yet.  WE8 is the next OS in the Windows Mobile/WEH range and will the OS that sits on data capture equipment.

Microsoft have another OS called “Windows Phone 8″ but this is for consumer smartphones only, we don’t really do much with it here.  WIndows 8 and Windows RT are seen on tablets.

Android goes from strength to strength!

Android goes from strength to strength!


Android is the OS of the moment. It’s taking up market share in all of the consumer, business and enterprise markets.  We’re selling as many Android rugged devices as we are Windows Mobile ones these days and it is here to stay.  You can tell from the version adoption figures on Google’s own site that the OS is no longer only used by those chasing the latest version, but by businesses who want the most stable releases a few points back and Android is now officially eroding market share in established Apple iPhone countries like the UK, Europe and even USA.

Android is so easy to develop, tweak and install that pretty much every new rugged device we’ve seen this year has been Android based or at least has, had an Android OS option.

Just 1 OS version sits on any mobile smart phone, Rugged PDA or tablet making it simple to get familiar with.

Apple IOS

IOS is still a strong contender in the mobile market and depending on your country makes up for 15-50% of mobile devices. Apple kit is a closed OS system so you can only use it on Apples hardware.  This brings IOS  the hard-fought reputation that it just works, however you are at the behest of Apple and when they decide to stop developing for or supporting a version of IOS you are using.  Apple are the king of “Early redundancy of hardware” so versions tend to go out of support a lot earlier than people think making IOS not the best choice when it comes to enterprise solutions with 3-5 year ROI.


Once the darling of the business world, BB has slipped to almost nothing in the past few years. Dependant on a shaky OS platform that couldn’t support the demanded features that the latest OS’s could bring, they decided to switch to an Android platform with their latest handset releases in the hope could plug the gap but haven’t really done so.  Even Blackberry Messenger has been released for Android and IOS, now meaning there’s no real USPs in having a Blackberry solution any longer, and you might as well not lock yourself in.


There are other platforms but they make up so little of the market I’m not going to go in to them here. next we’ll talk about the pro’s and cons of each OS in the Rugged/Enterprise world.



Phone and 3G what the spec sheet means

21 05 2014
Do you know what networks your rugged handheld will connect to?

Do you know what networks your rugged handheld will connect to?

In the last blog I did a quick update on the different levels of 3G your smartphone or rugged PDA or even tabvlet can have so today I thought i’d help extend that knowledge into underdstanding exactly what the “phone and data” section of the spec sheet actually means!

So as Judge Jules always used to say, “We continue!”

If we look at a typical phone and data section of a rugged pda we’ll something like this:

A typical phone chip spec

A typical phone chip spec

Type of 3G

This explains the level of data connectivity the device has and this is what I explained in the last blog.  So you’ll often see 4G at the top, followed by all the 3G prototcols, in this case HSPA+, HSDPA, UMTS and then the 2G protocols such as Edge and GORS and lastly the modem base protocol, GSM. The rule of thumb here is that all data connection are backward compatible so if the device has 4G, it’ll work at any speed downwards.  You’ll see in trhis case the device in question can operate on HSPA+ and below, which is 3.9G and below.

Phone networks compatibility

There are in fact 2 completely different phone networks in the world and where there are multiple network operators working on the same network type, they have to work on specific frequencies. Here in Europe we have the luxury of only ever connecting to one and this is known as the GSM network. Where you have multiple operators, for example EE, O2, Vodafone and 3, these all operate on their own different frequencies.

To be honest, I can’t even think of any phone that won;t work on any frequency any more so if you buy a Rugged PDA in the UK that works on the GSM network it can be connected to any operator.  Many manufacturers omit this off the spec sheet now to reflect this but if you do see things like 900MHz or 2100MHz then this is what they mean!

In other continents the CDMA network type is used and in some, like Africa and the USA both are present.  This is what the second section on the spec sheet is talking about so you’ll see lots of Now it’s often not cut and dry but generally if you see terms like GSM then the phone can be used on GSM networks and like-wise terms like CDMA/EVDO then it works on CDMA based networks.

To give you a real world example in the USA. AT&T is a GSM based network and if you were from the UK years ago then your phone would probably have connected to this network.  Verizon is a CDMA based network and this probably explains all the bother about the iPhone only originally working on AT&T.  The reason was it only had a GSM chip in it.

Now-a-days, especially if the device has a 4G capable chip, this has all become a little bit pointless, however with Rugged devices having longer technology refresh cycles, there are still some that you have to be careful of and choose the right chip for.  Always ask if in doubt!


Everything you need to know about Windows Embedded 8 Handheld

12 03 2014
Windows Embedded 8 Handheld - What we currently know!

Windows Embedded 8 Handheld – What we currently know!

So With Microsofots successor to Windows Mobile now piloting in the states I thought it would be a good time to answer all the questions we have had about WE8H, here’s most of them.  We’ve done our best on this so we hope this stimulates conversation and more questions.  That way we all keep learning, so just ask in the comments below or tweet us at @ruggedandmobile if you want to connect.

How do I develop WE8H applications?

You basically use the Windows Phone 8 development tools and SDKs to get set up and then you install the WE8H SDK to use the specific features of this OS.  You need the latest versions of Visual Studio from 2012 onwards. VS 2008 is no good any more.  Now the catch is that you can install VS 2012 on a W7 machine, but to install the WP8 components you need to have a W8 machine.  Good luck with that!!

When is WE8H released officially?

Still not sure, nothing has been set in stone yet and there are no devices at all.  We constantly pester distributors and manufacturers and none of them can answer that question. Form experience I would say that 2014 is possible but i’m not sure if it’s probable.

What Mobile devices are available to test on?

In short none yet, but there are a few announced ones.  Motorola have a device that was piloting on the Home Depot pilot in the USA and their CEO also mentioned a tablet in a recent interview.  Pidion have announced 2 new devices the BM180 and the BP30 which are a POS and PDA style terminal running both Android 4,2 and WE8H.  We sell more Pidion than anyone in the UK and we’ve not seen one yet!  Panasonic are rumoured to be developing a tablet and Honeywell and Ingenico (Who bought Baracoda recently) are both partners in the pilot schemes.

Will we see WE8H on Nokia or consumer devices?

No, WE8H is intended only for pure business devices where data capture and POS is at the core of the solution.  COnsumer devices will continue to run Windows 8 Phone edition or WIndows 8 RT/Pro on tablets.

Do my old Windows Mobile based apps port easily?

We work with IOS, Android, WM and WP8 and we’ve also tinkered with WE8H here so we can answer this categorically.  Nothing will port at all from the older Windows Mobile or Windows Embedded Handheld OS.  We have found porting to Android far easier which sounds bazaar but at least we can make those apps more hybrid right now and reduce future risk for clients.

Is this just Windows Phone with some tweaks?

WE8H is based on the WP8 core and it does look a lot more like WP8 and what you see on the Nokia Lumia range.  So usability is up, however there are a lot of differences between the 2 OS’s.

So it’s as easy to port to Android?  Why would I port to WE8H?

Well firstly it’s easier if you already know Android and Java.  Many Microsoft houses don’t so you still get to work with familiar tools and technology like C# if porting to WE8H.  There is work required though and I will share that some Microsoft people here struggled more understanding the W8P solution process than the IOS/Android ones.  I’d go as far as saying though that in this new multi-os hybrid world we live in WE8H is not as familiar to many as you might think.  Also WE8H is designed to integrate far better with back end systems that are Microsoft..yada yada yada…yawn.  We heard it all before.  IOS and Andoird have way big enough app producers to get round all of that!

If the peripheral integration into the SDK lives up to what I think it is, then that will be nice.  If you can have pure, direct data capture from within the SDK then that will be a big benefit for building solutions with data capture.  Trick is how many businesses going mobile today actually see that as a benefit?

Is there an SDK and is peripheral support in that?

Yes and Yes, download it here and as far as we have worked out the SDK does have a lot of the peripheral support in it already but it’s currently limited.  It’s

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