The mobile OS for Enterprise conundrum!

23 07 2014
What OS strategy do you choose for your business today?

What OS strategy do you choose for your business today?

So with so many mobile OS choices, how do you choose the best one for your business solution?  I personally think that it’s all now boiling down to how easy it is to develop applications for an OS and I believe the battle in our “enterprise” market will not be won by just the OS and companies that can make it easy to develop, deploy and support their OS, but also to the ones who make it easy to innovate, adopt and own the OS as part of a unique solution offered by resellers and software houses alike.

Here at RAM we’re of course tweaking OS’s and helping customers with them all the time but we’ve found that less and less time is spent on the same set up tasks on Android than with Windows Mobile but instead we’re getting questions that are delving far more deeply into the features of the OS.  For example we get a lot of questions about how to get devices talking to each other, how to get “things” talking to each other and USB and Bluetooth communication.  Indeed it seems people are doing a lot more with their OS’s than ever before as businesses need to innovate more than ever to simply survive.

It seems the Windows mobile adopters aren’t the ones at the forefront of innovation any longer, pushing the OS envelope out.

Will this be Apples Achilles heel?  Maybe, it’s still highly targeted by many software houses, has a decent accessory platform and is well catered for through hybrid development frameworks and the recent launch of SWIFT means IOS has just been made easier to develop for, but is Apple able to open up enough and support those developing for their platform better?

Google on the other hand are actually having to address too many flavours of Android on the market being a victim of their own success if you like.  Openness isn’t a problem here and Android is as popular now with hybrid development frameworks but developers haven’t quite adopted it like the IOS tribe just yet.

Microsoft is a mess.  There… I said it!  They had the enterprise market cornered but have just given it to Android on a silver plate. There’s lots of rhetoric, loads of people stating they know what’s going on but won’t put pen to paper themselves, but I sit and talk with lots of Rugged suppliers every week and none of them know for sure.  I can talk to Apple, I talk to Android people but we’re a  Microsoft house here and I can’t remember the last time they talked to us.  Windows Embedded 8 forces developers to use Windows 8, new expensive tools have to be bought and from personal experience it’s easier to convert existing apps to Android in my view.  I think Microsoft have their work cut out re-gaining the trust of their loyal tribe before they can go take more market share.  However they’re still Microsoft, they still own half the server market, they still have a string desktop presence, despite the radical pressure from mobile devices and many businesses will welcome a fresh Microsoft tool set which will have a lot of help and support built-in.

Blackberry is easy.  They’re gone, we’re all just waiting for them to leave the party, it’s starting to get awkward now!

So if you’re currently looking for the right mobile OS it’s not easy, you need to think and the next blog will try to address that…

Zebra buy Motorola Solutions – What do we think?

22 04 2014
Motorola blends in with Zebra

Motorola blends in with Zebra

OK, OK, calm down people, yes it is another buyout, yes it is real and yes we’re going to give you the lowdown on what we think right here!

As the dust has barely settled on the Psion buyout by Motorola Solutions, they go and get bought themselves by Zebra.  Yep the same Zebra as who make those portable printers seem to have mustered up $3.5B to buy what seems like a slightly over priced Motorola Solutions. We’ve all lived through many buyouts ourselves, heck who hasn’t in IT these days so instead of putting our little rugged necks on the block for a change we instead went and talked to a whole bunch of people, customers, partners, software people, managers etc etc about what this means to them and this is mostly what came back:

1. Great so I have another brand that won’t be competing for my business?

It seems a lot of feedback came about this and the following comment summed it up best:

“With less players in the field, choice goes down, competition goes down and customers tend to lose out when this scenario happens. why will this be different?”

2. Eyes fall inwards, as the shake up continues

“We’re fed-up of the glossy emails that come from a-top and the increased visits from account managers scared for their jobs. When buy-outs happen like this there’s disruption and lots of it. We’re not dumb, we all know what happens, redundancies and cost saving come first so there’s no point saying there will be no disruption, just say there will be and get on with it!!”

3. What’s going on?

“What we hate the most is that no-one ever knows what’s truly going on during these matters and can ever give us a clear roadmap of the merger and then the products. It puts our business at risk not knowing. We like to work with smaller, niche providers as we have found them to be typically more trustworthy, transparent and not tied in to brands in any way and these guys seem to be increasingly left out. As these manufacturers buy each other out, we’ll be turning to resellers who can be honest with us and maintain the choice for us.”

4. Zebra MC65 or Motorola MZ320?

“Does the Zebra brand really work in the rugged mobile PDA/Tablet world. I ‘m not going to buy a Zebra MC65 or a Motorola MZ320. Managing these 2 brands will be a real handful. Not a job for the faint hearted is it worth staying clear until it’s sorted out.”

5. Motorola don’t have a printer buddy!

“So is this about Motorola needing a printer division? With Honeywell buying Intermec they got a mobile printer dept which could be perceived as a risk by Moto and Zebra.  Despite it being a buyout, these things are rarely done without a lot of “merging” so this could have been a fundamental reason to buddy up.”

6.  I like Zebra but I don’t like Motorola what does this mean to my 5 year commitment on PDA’s?

Again this is a big issue for some. What if you bought Zebra printers but run them with say Pidion or Getac Rugged PDA’s? How will this work now and on 5 years time?

“We’re already seeing Motorola castrate other brands from their Rho-Mobile product suite, I can see Zebra printers favouring their own brand of PDA’s here, this type of thing never seems to work out for the end user does it?”

7. I bought Psion about a year ago. Where does this leave me?

“I’m just fed-up of all the change and the lack of consistent service. At least Samsung and Apple won’t get bought out!”

8. Is it good business?

“I would just like to know why? What’s the point and are we just seeing the same old buying out panic buying to become the biggest as we saw in the IT world 20 years ago? I can’t work out why and how this benefits the customers at all.”

9. Culture clash

“We’ve been Psion, Symbol, Zebra and Motorola customers in the past and my question is that surely you can’t merge these very different companies together in such short time and ever hope for something good to come out of it. At the very least it will take years to merge the cultures and allow customers to get comfortable with new people, processes and products.”

10. Whats the point?

“You can see the point of Facebook buying a photo or video company and you can see why Microsoft might buy a security/Anti virus company for example as they enrich a core business and help it inch forward, dealing with specific strategic issues. However my concern is whether this is a big flexing of muscle situation here. How does this benefit anyone other than the shareholders and top level executives?

There were a few more but they overlapped a little bit and please understand that with some of the customers above being annoyed and smaller in their nature, I also had to edit these a little bit but the message is still left clear in each comment.

To be honest there’s not much else we could add.  maybe its selfish to say but we don’t like mergers and buyouts here, largely for the same or similar reasons as above so our morale of the story is to keep your options open, find great people to work with and keep them close. There’s plenty of options out there when you look!

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?

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!


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.


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 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!

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

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