The problem with Microsoft and Windows Embedded 8 Handheld

13 03 2014
Will Windows Embedded 8 Handheld work out for Microsoft?

Will Windows Embedded 8 Handheld work out for Microsoft?

So i’m ending this bonanza week all about Windows Embedded 8 Handheld which is Microsoft’s successor to the trusty Windows  Mobile line of operating systems with my brief thoughts on where the whole mobile OS market is going  for Microsoft.  In fact I’m not sure they’ll even be in it in 5 years time and here’s my reasons for thinking this.  Please note these are purely my own thoughts and opinions, based on the crazy stuff that goes on in my head.  I’d welcome comments and questions and a discussion so go over to twitter @ruggedandmobile to do that.

Why do I think this?  Well here’s why:

1. The global rugged device market for tablets and PDA’s is approximately 4-5M devices per year which is a fraction of the size of even the iPhone market, let alone the consumer one in general, so on the one hand I think having a rugged OS is good for business it’s still going to be a tiny market and not one that’s going to put Microsoft or anyone else for that matter back on top of the world.  Are Microsoft going to really support a completely bespoke OS for this market?

2. We’ve got very close connections to many rugged hardware manufacturers around the globe and we talk to them a lot.  The pilot running in the USA right now to me seems to be fraught with partner issues.  First its Moto, now it’s Pidion involved and it’s not clear at all where it’s going or with who.

3. The largest rugged supplier is Motorola Solutions.  However they’ve only launched Android based devices with a heavily bespoked OS this year, add in their Rhomobile offering and also the fact they’re clearly trying to create an eco-system of preferred suppliers and apps and you’d be right to question if they’re committed 100% to Microsoft any more.  I’m not sure Microsoft know or understands how to work in a multi-OS market and I would question if  anyone can commit to an OS 100% in one?

4. Windows 8 phone only runs on Qualcomm snap dragon chips and as far as I have managed to understand WE8H runs on the W8P core.  This chip is not only starting to show its age but as the months roll by, Qualcomm are  surely going to de-focus or even drop the chip for newer ones they’ve developed.  Are Microsoft OS sales going to be enough to keep the processor going or to warrant a redevelopment on a newer or more open chipset?  THey only have 2.9% of the consumer market and the rugged market, as already demonstrated, is tiny.

5. Add to the above, not enough is being done or said from partners or Microsoft themselves to give everyone a clear understanding of what is going on and how WE8H will work.  I mean WE8H has been announced for a year now.  I’m an ex-HP/Microsoft bod, I develop MS solutions, I sell Rugged hardware, i’m cheeky, nosey, tweet and comment all the time and I don’t know.  What chance has a small corporate got?  To me this always happens when doors are going to be shut on certain people.  Does it mean only the lead hardware partners get the technology? Does it mean the OS will rely on 1 chipset to function? Does it mean that developers have to migrate their Windows Mobile development to the W8P and WEH8 platforms…convenient hey? Whos going to lose out and why and how will that impact the smaller business looking to reduce risk and innovate on their own terms?

6. Lastly it’s been a year since the launch but still no WE8H devices that normal bods can buy and test with.  There’s still no strategy, despite some hardware manufacturers announcing devices themselves.  I think i’m right to ask what the heck is going on?

All I know is that people that I talk to are all leaning towards Android right now because they’re worried that WE8H is not only going to be too much of an unknown and thus a risk.  Android is here to stay in the rugged market, it’s getting better all the time, we’re writing apps to integrate barcode scanners and other hardware for smaller hardware providers or to simply differentiate and it leaves your choices open.  I think the world has changed hugely the past 5 years and will continue to change at an even higher rate.  Is it rude to stop and ask if Microsoft  might still not be quite as on the money as they think they are?

http://www.ruggedandmobile.com





Smartphone Versus Rugged – Counting the real cost

18 10 2013

 

Top Customer Mobile Device Requirements

Top Customer Mobile Device Requirements – TY to VDC research

We’re turning our blog tapping fingers back to our roots and talking about all things rugged for a the next few weeks. What was interesting in particular was to see how smartphone based providers talk and then to see the difference in opinion that the rugged ones had.

What we agree on

What all providers in the mobile space do agree on is where it’s going. We all see past the “eliminating paper” app now and we all see the demand for way more mobile use in businesses who are keen to take the next steps in what it can bring them.  Hardware guys (like us) know we have to do more to support and also step into the software world more. Software guys know they need to work with better hardware if they want to keep customers longer and have less issues.

However above and beyond this, customers top 2 requirements in their mobile hardware are its quality and it’s price.

Top 2 mobile device requirements of customers

Top 2 mobile device requirements of customers

So lets take these 2 requirements and delve further shall we!?

The facts about non-rugged

All manufacturers agree that non-rugged kit has a far greater failure rate. Everyone showed us 20%+ with rugged coming in at 5% failure rates and this really is going to cost any business dearly in the long run. Rugged = quality.

Lack of roadmap

Yes I know Android is way more portable than Windows Mobile is but the fact is can you really run your business critical business solution on top of hardware that can change at a moments notice bringing all kinds of training, familiarity, support and possible technical issues with it?  Rugged devices might be boring, might not be 100% up to date in terms of features but they’re stable, here for the long run and allow businesses to focus on what they do, not on their problems. Rugged = Quality!

Ruggedness

Actual ruggedness always comes further down the list when it comes to customer requirements. The reason is that customers see ruggedness as a feature, not necessarily a true quality requirement but being rugged has a definite impact on the quality. If your devices are working more of the time then the quality of your mobile solution will be higher.

Support

Manufacturer lead support, like any other support any of us use, is crap. There I said it. You’re treated like a number, the communication is diabolical and whilst I am a firm believer that Indian technical expertise is able to compete with the best we have in Europe, they’re not here and remote support brings many issues.  Anyone working in a large company will also know how poorly they treat their staff these days and that translates into Zero passion, zero loyalty and pretty much crap service.

If you can build an ecosystem of passionate hardware suppliers who also understand and support the kit they sell then you have a winner.  There’s nothing like this in the smartphone world, but in a certain area of rugged there is.

The challenges

The problems are 2-fold in our eyes.

Price

Price will always play it’s part and as you can see above is the number 2 requirement mobile device customers ask for. However rugged devices are no longer twice the price of smartphones. Indeed a Samsung galaxy S4 will set you back the best part of £600 as will a decent iPhone. Yes we still have £2000 rugged handheld units, but we also have a plethora of £500, £400 and even £300 ones too now.

Features and familiarity

So why do people still buy smartphone? Well you can still buy on price, if you look then you can find unbranded £100 ones and these will always find wins where money matters.  However I think it’s more to do with features and what you can use them for.  Smartphones will always have the latest and greatest tech in them. They’ll always be the quickest to react to users needs and they’ll always be shinier and more alluring, even to businesses.  Add in the fact that 90%+ of us have a personal Android or Apple based smartphone and the familiarity thing really can win out.

However the rugged market has really being playing catch up this year and with new phones sporting the latest Android versions, at pricing that matches anything in the smartphone world, I think we’ll see a shift back to rugged now where business users truly belong.

Let me know what you think, there’s always interesting debates on this one!

http://www.ruggedandmobile.com





Samsung watch but is it rugged?

9 09 2013
The Samsung Galaxy Gear wearable smart watch

The Samsung Galaxy Gear wearable smart watch

I was being a bit cryptic when I said that but let me explain what I mean by the term rugged!  First lets get the boring bits out of the way…

… Yes it’s a watch, yes it’s a smartphone that looks like a watch, yes all the main smartphone manufacturers have made or are making one and yes at first glance no-one really understands them or sees the point past looking “ahem”… cool.  I use the word “cool” and Samsung in the same sentence very carefully might I add!  Also just what is a rugged PDA supplier talking about a Samsung watch for?  Well we also make embedded gadgets here too so we understand the value of machines talking to each other here a lot and whether you still call it M2M (showing my age there!) or “the internet of things” it’s still all about machines taking out the human element.

So just what the heck I am I on about then!?  Well I’ve been keeping a close eye on these smartphone watches and I’ve also been talking to a lot of people online about them and 2 themes seem to keep coming to the top.  Theme 1 is about the fashion element of a watch.  It’s one fact that you don’t want a smartphone on your wrist but here lies the real secret. I don’t like wearing watches, I use a keyboard at work, lots and a watch is not for me.  If I do wear one it’s going to be my 22 year old Seiko divers watch that makes me feel like (a poor) James Bond!

My other half isn’t going to change her elegant silver time piece that she loves dearly and matches her earrings, and after asking other people they’re all saying to me that their wrist is already reserved.  There’s a lot of brands that have that left or right wrist reserved in us folk and when it comes down to it who’s going to have the brand to knock off fashion selected ones like Omega, Rolex or maybe G-Shock, Seiko etc.  The point i’m trying to make is that whilst i’m happy to be seen with an Apple pinned to my ear.  I’m not going to wear the T-Shirt and that probably means that i’m not going to “wear” apple on my wrist, let alone Samsung!

The second theme is the other thing that has hugely bothered in a lot of the journalism surrounding the Samsung watch launch and that’s people who are moaning that it isn’t actually a stand alone smartphone and it needs a specific Samsung smartphone to work with.  I mean really?  You actually want to look like a dork taking calls on your watch phone or perhaps you like being in a carriage full of people all using their speaker wrist phones so they can talk and hear at the same time?  I can also just see people trying to text with tiny keys on the move? However this misses the point of these devices in my view.

I think clever Android software people (like us ;-)) are going to work out what these watches can really help with and then I think once we’ve got passed being wowed by BBC’s weather app, we’ll start to see some true business applications appear on these devices.  Maybe an alert for nurses or a courier pickup or some kind of routing for walkers… I don’t know just yet but I sure as hell think they are a platform, in conjunction with the power of a full smartphone that could work in concept.

So on the one hand I think the concept of the smart watch has a battle to fight for that wrist space, and it’s really disappointing to see some really big companies completely over-estimate their brand kudos in this sense and not even think of going into a partnership with a fashion or sports brand.  However on the other hand i’m really excited about all the M2M widget type apps that these wrist devices could actually help us with.  Add a better way to let people choose how to carry the device or embed them into cars and vans and they could just work.

I say watch this space, especially when Apple launch theirs and some kind of critical mass hits the market.

The rugged and mobile blog

http://www.ruggedandmobile.com





Just whats in your Rugged PDA box!

30 08 2013
The Rugged PDA - But just what comes in the box with it?

The Rugged PDA – But just what comes in the box with it?

So you just bought your new estate of rugged pda’s, the boxes have arrived, all standing proud, new, crisp and just waiting to be handed out to your workers, but then one of them grunts…. “How do I charge it up?”… You look in the box and there’s nothing there, just a device and a battery…. oops!

OK, so a bit dramatic, but believe it or not, it’s not an uncommon scenario, especially when you’re pricing up competition and decided who’s going to supply you.  With this blog I wanted to just uncover a few things you need to know about what comes in the box with a rugged PDA, what to watch for and the pro’s and cons.

The whole shebang!

So lets start with some brands that give you a load of kit in the box.  They tend to come from the far east with Bluebird Pidion and Dotel leading the way bundling all they can think of in the box with their devices.  Screen protectors, stylus, tether and choice of battery type are just the beginning with a cradle, leads and power supply included too which means you practically have everything you need to get going.

Despite the price of these brands generally being lower than the Motorola’s and Honeywell’s of the world, some still might feel that they have kit they don’t want though which is potentially why some bundle the bare minimum.

The Rugged PDA meanies!

So we turn to brands like Motorola, Honeywell, Intermec and Psion. These brands bundle the bare minimum with device and battery only.  Psion don’t even bundle the battery! At first glance it might seem mean, but then at least you aren’t buying anything you don’t need and can add what you do at will. In fact even the latest Pidion HM40 and HM50 series do not come with the standard cradle kits any more and these are now a £80 addition if you want them.

What to watch for

Why am I telling you this?  Well the biggest mistake people make is to think they’re getting something they’re not and not comparing like for like.  Always make sure you know what you’re getting in the box so you can make a direct cost and feature comparison.

For example, despite a Dotel H300S being slightly cheaper (but equally as good) as say a Motorola MC45, you get everything you need in the box with the Dotel.  The MC45 will require at the minimum a USB based charger that’ll all but trickle charge the device eventually.  To get a proper snap on charger or even cradle you’ll need to add about £60-70 to the price or more for cradles and PSU’s.

Always ask what’s in the box with any device recommended so you know exactly what your final cost will be.

The rugged and mobile blog.

The Rugged and Mobile blog.





The march of the cheap rugged smartphone

29 07 2013
Are cheap rugged smartphones the future?

Are cheap rugged smartphones the future?

You only have to do a quick Google search to see how many people are looking for a Rugged Smartphone these days and what people are looking for is definitely impacting the rugged market today in more ways than one.  In fact when you look at a whole bunch of terms people are searching for in terms of the hardware they want for their mobile business needs, you’ll see a very different landscape of terms being used now than were being used even 12 months ago.  So what happened?

The Rugged market has become cluttered with choice, and as with any other market in the same situation, choice ultimately means a drive to the bottom of the market on price, usually followed by a buying frenzy with a few players left over to pick up the pieces!  If we draw parallels to the PC market , say 10 years ago you’ll exactly the same happened.  The bigger players, lacking innovation and running scared, bought the mid-range players, whilst the bottom of the market, fuelled by emerging markets, pulled it ever down on price.  Lovely blue oceans, turned red!

As the product became more ubiquitous to us as humans, we stopped looking for the most innovative features, even cool brands, as  we just wanted a laptop that did what we needed it to do satisfactorily.  If we look at that market now, all the Big IT company names from the 90′s are struggling.  The cheaper Chinese ones are doing well (for now) but are having to diversify to survive and its the same in the smartphone market.  Apple still have a loyal, rich brand capable of extracting value out of consumers like no-one else can, but its weakening and its share price backs that up.  Samsung have made huge strides into the smartphone and tablet markets but self confess to not making any money from it with average smartphone prices down by 25% from last year.  Huawei and Lenovo meanwhile are mopping up the lower end, selling cheap smartphones that do everything they need to do for 1/3rd of the price of the id-range brands like HTC, LG, Nokia and Asus, who will probably become ripe for the picking!

So what we’ve got to look forward to in the Rugged smartphone market?  Well we’re already seeing the bigger 2 (Motorola and Honeywell) buying up the mid range brands.  Psion, Intermec, LXE, Metrologic, HHP) all gone now and will no hard within the next 6 months.  Meanwhile the lower end of the market thrives with cheaper rugged smartphones and price at the forefront of their minds.  Pidion, Winmate, Mitac,….. The list goes on with the larger companies bringing out ever cheaper models to compete and fend off dropping share prices.

With tumbling prices the service drops, it’s a fact especially in a “channel” scenario and despite what people may tell you.  The moral of the story is that the focus was on the hardware a few years ago, but now it’s about keeping your business running.  If a cheap rugged smartphone does that then well done, but the key to keeping hardware running these days is to find someone who cares about it and that list is getting smaller every day!

The Rugged and Mobile blog.








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