So with Windows 8 Embedded Handheld now being tested and reviewed, we thought we’d try to answer the question all our customers are asking.  Namely how do you transition from your WIndows mobile or Windows Embedded handheld 6.5 solution to an OS that is way more 2013?  This our opinion, it’s a very “rugged” market opinion and designed to help people out who are at the point where their rugged Handheld kit and solution needs changing.

Stay as you are!

Windows embedded handheld 6.5 support does continue until 2020, and any rugged hardware coming out today still runs this OS.  Its supported, it is pretty well 95% compatible with earlier versions of Windows Mobile (5.0, 6.x) solutions and it still works for true data capture style solutions, despite it’s smartphone market failure!

However as using a smartphone becomes an everyday thing to all of us, people who use this OS would probably agree that change has to come soon.  It’s just too old, hasn’t kept pace at all and mobile solutions are either too basic or too reliant on hardware SDK’s.  Support for new technologies and services like NDEF – NFC, Social services etc mean that you’re way behind the newer operating systems of today.  So just how does a classic rugged mobile solution transition from the “Windows Mobile” bloodline to the newer, fresher OS’s that are pushing the boundaries of today’s (mobile) software.

The Microsoft answer

Well it’s easy, its Windows 8 Embedded handheld!  Yes another name change, but this time it brings a real update to the “windows mobile” chain of operating system.  However it doesn’t come as an easy port.

  • Firstly it’s going to require a complete re-write, it’s very different to Windows mobile development and it’s not straight forward to port you legacy applications to it.
  • The hardware must also have a capacitive screen.
  • No keypads allowed, this will be a big change for rugged customers who prefer their hardware keypads.
  • The OS hasn’t actually officially been released as yet, it’s very new and there’s no officially released hardware you’d want to use yet.
  • W8 EH also only runs on specific ARM, Qualcomm processors.

The Android answer

From v4.0, or Ice cream sandwich Android is officially being adopted and offered by some of the more rugged handheld suppliers and it is now being taken seriously by all but the most sceptical.  Motorola, Intermec and Honeywell have all now got an Android strategy and have a mix of devices with Android on them and manufacturers like Pidion and Winmate have had solid, sound Android strategies at the heart of their offering for years.

We use Android here, more and more and it’s probably the OS and development that we’re giving all the attention to right now.  It’s great to use, great to develop for, solid, sound and it works.  What we have noticed is that you need to make sure you choose the right hardware for it.

Android is here, it’s diluting the rugged market and gaining pace at that and it’s going to be a serious contender for any business solution.

The Apple answer

Apple and IOS still have a strong offering and you can’t deny that you’re seeing more and more Apple products in every business walk of life.  They do make great business smartphones for your staff, they are easy to get hold of on contract and there’s no doubt businesses are extending their use of them in many fields, especially EPOS.  We’ve even seen them proposed (not by us I hasten to add!) in true rugged solutions like car parking and with cheaper tablets like the MIni, they really do give you an option.

Apple however are a little too closed in for many businesses, they don’t really support hardware for more than 18 months, although with todays development and run times coming down to months not years, does that really matter any more?

Microsoft again!

Windows 8 Phone, although not meant for business per se, it is still a viable option for some, however what might be more viable for tablet owners is to develop a “store” solution for a Windows 8 RT or Windows 8 Pro tablet.  Don’t forget that Windows 7 tablets now all run W8 Pro which will still run full windows solutions and this area of .NET has been significantly cleaned up and tweaked for the mobile market in Visual studio 2012,  Windows tablets are no longer £1500 and sport 12″ screens and we’ll see a trend towards 7-10″ tablets sporting full Windows which can’t be a bad thing can it?

The others

To be honest there are no others.  Blackberry are gone in our view, all they’re trying to do is copy and catch up, it might sound harsh but just go check out the sales figures compared to 10 years ago.  THe rest make up 1% of the OS market and you’d have to have a seriously bespoke requirement to any of them in a business solution in my view.

So there we are.  As always just ask if you want any more help, don’t forget you can get us on Facebook now too.

The Rugged and Mobile blog.