Rugged Handhelds continue to be a source of great debate for us here and I was involved in yet another interesting one over the break about the future of the rugged market in general, mainly sparked off by the Microsoft element and how the OS is losing its grip on the mobile market. I’ve played a lot with Windows Phone 7 and it’s a very nice OS. It’s not going to prise me away from my iPhone just yet but it does take a nice approach to the Mobile OS and if it had been launched 2 years ago our Mobile OS landscape would look a lot different now.
However the problem the more savvy Rugged Resellers are highlighting is that it’s not available on any Rugged Handhelds and probably wont ever be. You see this is important to us because we’ve always been able to deploy a Windows Mobile 6.x solution which can be easily replicated in the rugged, semi-rugged PDA and non rugged arena’s meaning your van drivers, your van managers and your office managers could easily choose the right hardware for them but still use the same business app. Having done my 2011 WP7 certifications already I can vouch that Microsoft still harps on about the very same benefit. However WP7 is a very different beast to WM6.x and in fact it may aswell be as different as Android and OSX for all most customers care because it means the market is once again segmented.
This brings a few problems. Firstly Rugged WM6.x sales will no longer drive smartphone sales as the WP7 smartphones are simply not being taken up by consumers who will ultimately choose. The app marketplace is empty compared to that of the iPhone, Android and Blackberry (And Nokia for that matter!!) and customers are already accepting that they will be buying different OS driven smartphones to their rugged versions.
However the mobile OS is now the core for software solutions and this means that people are going to want to try to get as generic as they can which leaves a big wide open door into the rugged market. Apple already have a store barcode solution in the form of a jacket and Android is available on a few rugged PDA’s so we’re already starting to see a shift.
What do I think? Well we already have iPhone skills here largely because of the iPad and how we feel this can help us. We’re also looking at Android because we’re now selling Android Semi Rugged PDA’s. What we’re also seeing is a distinct set of users that are being forced down the non rugged route when they really want to go down the rugged route but can’t and there’s an innovative niche market being re-discovered in this area consisting of decent jackets, screens protectors and other accessories that help make any mobile solution a rugged one.
With most Rugged Manufacturers looking blankly at you when you even mention Android or WP7 its certain to say that we’re not going to see too much in the way of change here so it’ll be down to clever resellers like us who’ll be able to build the solution you need through a network of known partners.
mobile solutions are always a compromise, however the “Rugged” element was always one that would not be touched. However the true cost of a multi platform solution is making people look at this cost and it is becoming a know compromise.
It seems that rugged enough could be the new rugged…..Told you it might be an interesting year…We’ll see!!
The Rugged and Mobile blog.