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?

Windows Mobile lives on as Windows 8 Embedded

10 03 2014
Windows Embedded 8 Handheld is near...Nearly!

Windows Embedded 8 Handheld is near…Nearly!

Its Windows Embedded 8 Handheld week at Rugged and Mobile!

For those of you that don’t know Windows Mobile has been living strong in the rugged PDA world, despite its fall from grace and now replacement by Windows Phone in the smartphone and consumer tablet markets but it  still represents possibly the best mobile operating system for business data systems.  Sure it’s user interface is god awful, it doesn’t even know what Twitter is and if you can’t do it without a stylus then it’s not worth doing are all mantra’s iPhone and Android smartphone users would be visibly sick hearing but Windows mobile still does a lot that IOS and Android don’t and it still has it’s place in the business world.

First lets just clear up what I mean by Windows Mobile.  Windows mobile (WM) is the Wm5.0, 6.0, 6.1 and 6.5 line of operating systems that sits on things like Motorola ES400′s or Pidion BIP-6000′s. It turned into Windows Embedded Handheld 6.5 a couple of years back which most people still don’t see any differences in and there it has stood ever since.  However Microsoft finally announced it’s successor OS naming it Windows Embedded 8 Handheld early in 2013 but despite a few pilot projects stuttering and starting in the America’s we’re still waiting to see the first  fully fledged device come to the general market.

Now unlike most Windows mobile updates we’ve known from v5.0 to 6.5, WE8H is not going to be compatible at all, it will look like Windows 8 Phone edition but it will remain a completely different operating system aimed squarely at the barcode scanning, business data syncing and RFID reading rugged customer!

So what benefits does WE8H bring the rugged user?

Firstly the OS is built to accommodate far better touch based usability.  I think what we read into this is that even in the logistics end of the business world, we’re all wanting a better experience when using the mobile device we’ve been given.

Secondly there’s built in support for POS (Point of sale/service) with Microsoft saying that they are working to improve ease of building apps in the whole POS chain from line-busting to the POS terminal itself.  As you know POS is seriously going mobile now, its not the locked down PCI world is once was and people don;t like tills any more (Did we ever?).

Lastly support for hardware peripherals will be built in so if you’re Motorola Solutions you can build your barcode scanner SDK right into the OS giving fine control over any bespoke added hardware. This however has been given a boost by clearly extending support for many more hardware types like mag strip readers, better RFID integration, Hosted USB  and more.

Pilots running now

The one big pilot that has been running ins the “Home Depot” one in the USA.  A solid Windows mobile user already, Home Depot have been trialling WE8H to enable their workers to spend more time assisting customers directly and whilst we’ve heard of issues working with hardware suppliers (Is it Motorola, is it Pidion?) they are at least making progress and moving WE8H onwards.  More here on that in the video below:

So that still leaves a lot of questions for us lowly non-pilot customers and resellers and i’ll cover that off in the next post right here?

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Our predictions for the rugged and mobile market 2014

9 01 2014
Our rugged and mobile market predictions for 2014

Our rugged and mobile market predictions for 2014

I always look forward to this article because as well as getting things right I also love to get things wrong or spark debate occasionally!

2013 saw some of the fastest, biggest change to our market for years and whilst last year I already talked about how change was the theme word, I think “Disruption” will be the one for 2014 as we see things go even further, deeper and faster.  In fact I would go as far as saying that there’s going to be a lot more going on in 2014.

We sat down as a business this week and came up with about 30 ideas for this blog, so we asked some customers and suppliers too and distilled it down to our top 10 predictions for 2014!

We want to hear from you, so please add your own, have a go at ours or simply tell us if you think we have it wrong or right.  Just use the comments section below.

1. Android marches on

Android is now 80% of the mobile market globally and even in the UK and western world it’s still munching up the market at about 50% now.  People know it, businesses want it and trends like BYOD are pushing it as the defacto, regardless of any security issues people think it still has.  Rugged devices take the security issues away by disconnecting the play store and Microsoft have been so lax in data capture so I think 2014 will see Android create some firm foundations into the rugged market.

2. Microsoft flops again

Windows mobile is still alive and kicking but does anyone here know what the OS is doing and what’s next?  Microsoft did launch it’s successor last year but so far there has been very little buzz, even on twitter, very little going on and still no handsets or anyone talking to us about anything they installed it on so we’re certainly thinking it’s not a recipe for success.  I think 2014 will see Microsoft lose it’s grip in the rugged market. (yes I did just say that!)

3. Rugged becomes the norm

We all know we need rugged for business but do we really need to have 0.5KG hulking devices to get it?  I think this year we’ll see the reality of “inherently rugged” innovations like bendy screens, antimicrobial screens, rugged in small sizes and simply rugged enough.

4. Cheaper, faster, smaller, better – (Insert Daft Punk tune here!)

If you look at some of the biggest manufacturers last year they hardly touched anything above the £500 mark but brought out about 10 devices that were all aimed at the lower end of the market.  These were basically rugged smartphones, cheap, less quality but they had the fundamental power and functionality to run complex mobile applications.  Add to this battery technology is getting better all the time, wireless and screen technology is also getting more frugal so we don’t need bigger batteries either.

5. Business not hardware focussed

OK, so I’m preaching to the converted but this year we’ll see businesses refining their mobile solutions much better with shorter, cheaper hardware turn around cycles so they have hardware that keeps up with their business innovation.  There’ll still be many business models that demand a £1000 5 year rugged PDA cycle but the trend is that innovation is the key not hardware.

6. Repair and service change

We’re simply not selling the support contracts we used to because mobile customers are changing and a lot of them don’t like paying for stuff they might not use, un yet customers are getting more demanding with support as their business processes get pushed into the mobile world.  2014 will herald a change in how support and repair will need to be delivered and who will win and who will lose.  Watch out for some super new innovative products in this space that answer this need.

7. Choice becomes infinite

Choosing a rugged handheld computer has never been more difficult with now a dazzling array of products that are all different, all have USP’s but all harder to understand.  There’s certainly more to life than Motorola but finding the best products will become more and more difficult for consumers.

8. The rise of the small and niche!

Innovation will be key in 2014 more than ever and brands like Motorola and Honeywell are not capable of innovating like the smaller companies are so seeking out the brands and resellers who are doing wonderful stuff with brands you might not know so well are the ones who will thrive this year.

9. NFC and RFID also marches on

Largely due to how Android makes this so easy I think we’ll see a big push into the RFID markets this year with more and more solutions using it.  RFID is not just a barcode replacement technology any more and 2-14 will see some big changes and some innovative products all with RFID at their core.

10. The age of automation begins!

2014 will see the introduction of a whole load of new, weird devices that will start to take away the relevance of the PDA.  Google glass, wrist watches, smart badges and buttons are all just the start of seeing devices that embrace the era of automation which will be upon in 2104.  This will impact our market hugely and will slowly but surely make us realise how irrelevant the PDA or smartphone will be in the not so distant future.

So there it is! We’d love to hear what you think or if you can add anything.  Just use the comments below

A rugged and mobile welcome back for 2014

6 01 2014


Happy New Year 2014

Happy New Year 2014

Well it’s been a big year of change for us here at RAM. We’ve grown, been hyper busy, taken on new people and seen our first one leave too but all the hard work has made for a superb foundation as we grapple with the rugged and mobile markets and change our business to suit.  I don’t want to spoil our full “Looking back” blog coming up this week but we’ve seen huge change in the rugged hardware market this year, largely lead by Android, technology being cheaper than ever and innovative new things that have driven our way of thinking both technologically and marketing-wise.

Change will continue to be the big word for us this year as we put in the foundations we need to press ahead.  Despite having a good year we’re gearing up for what’s next and we’re looking to really drive what we do more in 2014. We’ll be sharing this as it happens with you through our social channels, it’s really exciting and I can’t wait!

We’ll be bringing some super big changes to the blog format next year too.  We’re really excited about that and we’ll be tweeting out what we’re up to as it happens if you want to know more.  Talking of tweets, we’re hugely active socially too which is where a lot of other exciting stuff is being talked about, so sign up for our newsletter and follow us on various social networks to get the best scoops and inside knowledge from us and to engage with us too.  Go to our social page to find all our social links and you’ll see our newsletter signup at the bottom of the same page.  Here you can engage with us, see our hearts and passion, really you’ll love it! whether Pinterest, Facebook or G+.

So we’d like to thank all our blog followers and subscribers. Despite a small hiccup in our numbers this year largely thanks to Google! We’re still here, we’re still strong and we thank all of you very much for tuning in and making this place great.

We wish you all the very best for 2014 and we’ll be sharing and flying the “rugged and mobile” flag as high as ever this year with some great content!

Lots of love from Dave and the team at Rugged and Mobile

Rugged and Mobile trends – A look back at 2013

27 12 2013
A look back at rugged and mobile trends we made for 2013

A look back at rugged and mobile trends we made for 2013

I so love getting the honour of doing this blog at the end of the year, it’s so cool to see how right and also wrong we were about the past year!  So this time last year we made some predictions about the rugged and mobile markets and this is what we said!

1. Windows mobile dies!

Well it has taken a few blows from Android this year but it certainly isn’t dead by any means. It’s had a new version come out which no-one knows anything about and we’re yet to see on a rugged device! But it’s still here, alive and kicking.

2. Mobile payments takes off

We had 3 mobile payments based projects this year and we’re talking to current customers about how they can push the payments system out to their mobile platform too so this has seen focus for us this year.  We’ve also worked with NFC closely too and on Android especially this technology is really now starting to fly.

3. Tablet war gets hotter

Well it certainly did! The ipad family got larger, Android tablets are everywhere, Tesco brought out a £90 one (It’s crap by the way unless you’re 6 years old!), and lots of customers demanded larger screens.  Are they buying rugged Android 7″ tablets?  Not so sure about that but we did see growth in windows and android kit across the board.

4. Change is the challenge for mission critical

This we’re seeing as a challenge hitting businesses before we thought it would. Business IT used to be about being safe, reducing risks and 3-5 year cycles on hardware. How do you d that though when every device brings something new to the market and your competition are using them?  We’ve seen focus on small, cheaper rugged devices this year, and lower priced brands have flourished due to that.  The larger brands have struggled to maintain trust in this area of the market but keep trying but for us the challenge has been to find ways of being remarkable with kit that’s half the price and gives half the margin.  This challenge will certainly continue into 2014 and well beyond.

5. More device form factors

Well this was inevitable but because we work with so closely with China and Asian producers we knew this was coming!  The obvious 4.3″, 5″ and rise of the “smartphone 800×480 LCD has now hit us in earnest, however we also saw all kinds of new styles of device hitting the market with 3.2″ screens, 6″ screens and all kinds of keypads and unique features too.  The jumble sale will continue, it’ll get faster, make sure you work with a reseller who can guide you through the woods!

6.  Microsoft – The return of the king

… Oops! This didn’t really happen.  Remember we’re rugged people here so we love Microsoft, but these days we also love IOS and Android too but the promise for the “1 tablet does all” from Microsoft simply didn’t materialise.  Add to this their Windows Mobile product line is sketchy, poorly advertised and managed and they really are falling from grace in our humble opinion.

7. BYOD (Bring your own device)

We’re not sure about this one. You’ll largely find mobile device management companies blurting on about it because it’s in their interest to have a BYOD market, but it really doesn’t make business sense to us because of the hardware repair element.  I think we’ll see this trend ease of in 2014 as businesses find cheaper, better more manageable solutions to install.

8. 4G becomes reality

They took their time but you have to say that 4G has arrived, albeit only in the main cities for now.  It does work though, there are well priced plans for it but as a reliable business network with full UK coverage it’s not there yet. Better hold off on those media centric mobile solutions for now then!

9. Cloud applications

I was talking to a customer about this just last week and we were both amazed at how 2013 has seen a huge shift in business thinking on cloud computing.  We certainly don’t have the hang-ups we once did and we’re now more focussed on the benefits so cloud computing is here, it’s here to stay and it’s just great!

10. Android marches on

We couldn’t have been more right about this.  We helped a number of manufacturers with Android prototypes in 2012 but 2103 saw a huge leap into “Rugged Android” where we went from 1 or 2 devices to over 10 now offering Android.  This won’t stop, we’re going to see more and more new brands with new devices that will be supported as well as anything else so don’t blink as it’s all happening here in 2014.

So that’s our review of 2013, we were more right than I thought to be honest, but I think we were a little sfae so with our predictions for 2014, i’ll make sure we get a bit ore edgy and put our necks on the block a little bit more.

Have your say too, comment or tweet us at @ruggedandmobile for you opinions too.


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