Our Layman’s guide to deploying Mission Critical Mobile solutions continues today with what I personally feel is one of the most important and costly to put right elements, namely rugged PDA roadmap.

A “Roadmap” for those that need an explanation is a demonstration of how long a device will be around for and supported and whilst a lot of customers measure this in terms of not wanting to buy an old device, where it’s most useful judging just where the changes will be and what to expect so you can see how changes could or hopefully won’t affect your solution over a period of time.

The image above is straight out of a presentation we give large-scale customers and I’m going to give people advice here in a top 5 things to watch for.

1. Device Roadmap History

This is really overlooked bu customers but is so simple to do. Before looking at what the manufacturer is committing to, ask for a history of what has happened before as it’s often very, very telling.  When you look at how Rugged Handheld roadmaps have been handled in the past you’ll see how the supplier and the reseller too will probably handles future changes.  Some manufacturers for example still make parts for devices 7 years out of service, sell devices with long availability and backwards compatibility.  Some give 2 weeks notice with no replacement strategy.

2. Roadmap commitments

OK, the most important part is to look forward.  Check to see how far in to the life of the device is, when was tha last upgrade and how long before the next?  There’s always something small going on in the next 6-12 months on live PDA’s, so ask as it’s a measure of committment to the current model and make sure you get written commitment from the manufacturer on any likely device changes or end of life activity.

3. Support Roadmap

How long will the device and it’s OS be supported?  Watch out for this as some manufacturers like to keep with the times a little too much in our view.  Yes WM6.1 is old, yes the scanner technology might be 3 revisions back on your device but it still does the job well and should be viable for at least 5 years and 2-3 year after end of life.  You should check what you’re covered for if you don’t opt for a service contract too, the answers will be very different.

Check out the reseller too.  It’s not just how well they can talk Mission Critical, check how hard they work at it too.  We support a lot of Microsoft stuff here that is out of support with Microsoft, we also fabricate and source spare parts ourselves that keep our customers running perfectly for far longer.  We only do this for our customers too so its a happy little club to be in.

One large, very well-known manufacturer has even decided to send back devices from repair with the latest (Not required) OS on their devices and this is for their service based customers…..thats just not Mission critical and very worrying.

4. Parts availability

OK, I know everyone, we are all fed up with some suppliers saying only their full service products guarantee parts availability, but what about us lowly folk who don’t opt for, often costly, service products?  There are very good manufacturers for example who don’t require a service committment and work closer with resellers to understand what should and shouldn’t be on their parts lists.

5. Roadmap Contingency Plans

At the end of the day sometimes manufacturers get things wrong or they have to react to something and things change.  Take a look at what contingencies you might have.  For instance Pidion maintain an established and coherent device platform across their range so its easy to un devices side by side. Motorola uses a mix of Qualcomm and XScale devices where there are known issues.  Check to see if the manufacturer or reseller will release something just for you that will keep you going, many will, we do right here.  I would also see how manufacturers deploy new devices too.  There’s too much hype in the mission critical world right now about new kit and not enough about how it works and how it’s been tested with older platforms.  Make sure you check this out too!

I would add to this that roadmaps used to be about the end of a rugged PDA life, but these days with such  a fast changing technology environment it’s almost impossible to stick to 3 or 5 year cycles on devices so look for ones that have a constant and incremental strategy when it comes to roadmap.  This way we get rugged PDA’s that keep up with technology but are always happy to work with older devices too.

yesterday we talk about Support, tomorrow we’ll press on and talk about the reseller.

The Rugged and Mobile blog.

About The Author

Dave's one of the founders of Raptor, his rants are memorable, his thoughts are stimulating and his heart is set on helping, entertaining and making things like mobile, Android, ruggedness, 3D printing and IOT simple.