Not more than 5 or 6 years ago, the choice in the rugged world was simple. Windows mobile, maybe CE for some and that was that.  Step forward to today though and OS choice isn’t that simple any more and with Microsoft launching their newest OS officially recently we though it was time to catch up on what’s going on in the mobile OS world with some opinion on what we’d choose.

We’ll start with:

Windows Mobile

Today Windows Mobile is actually called “Windows Embedded Handheld 6.5” but not many people know that and this OS is still in the Windows Mobile line of OS’s.  It’s probably still got the widest hardware choice, but Android is catching up fast now but it is still the most known and incumbent OS in the rugged market.

You still choose Windows Mobile because the device you want probably runs it, it tends to have a deep, full SDK to extend it’s device functionality and it still uses classic Microsoft .NET know-how to rapidly develop applications with skills your business probably already has.

However living with Windows Mobile is becoming more and more difficult, you still have to use Visual Studio 2008 to develop with it, the OS is ageing significantly now with support and SSL certificates even expiring on devices and despite being a stable little OS, the world simply caught up. It’ll work great for you and for a few years yet but the fact is there’s better choice now out there.

Typical Windows Mobile Devices

Typical Windows Mobile Devices


Android hasn’t just taken the consumer market by storm, it’s been a choice in the rugged market for 3 years now and the devices are getting better and better.  Device choice is excellent, but not only on the more legacy type devices.  The open source nature of Android works on mobile and is being fuelled by the emergence of cheaper, more familiar style devices that are cheap to buy but with specifications that far outstrip what you’ll see in the Windows Mobile world.

Android is also actively developed, Rugged devices get all but the very latest OS versions and it’s a fully fledged, modern OS that has become more business and enterprise capable in the past couple of years.

Android is a serious contender now for business applications and with the right partner it can work hugely for you.

It’s a Rugged Android smartphone party! from left: Raptor 4, TC55, Pidion HM45, Winmate e430, Honeywell 70e

Rugged Android devices are far more familiar to us

Apple IOS

Really I hear you say!  Yes despite us not selling Apple kit here (It’s not rugged!), if I had wrote this article about 3 months ago I would be banging on about how Apple is a consumer based technology.  However with their recent partnership with IBM and a plethora of industrial applications being written for specific markets Apple is targeting the Enterprise customer in our market.

IOS still has a very small device choice as it’s still essentially based on the same iPhone and iPad technology as we can all go buy in the shops and because Apple is a closed technology, you are at the behest of Apple in terms of what gets updated and left behind and when, but recently IOS has become more Enterprise friendly, it has become more secure and it’s life cycles have been getting longer.  At the same time rumours of more rugged iPhone 7’s are abound so you can see where they are going.

Apple is not for everyone though, their kit is still hellishly expensive and they are not targeting all business, just the very top big boys at this time, but they are definitely worthy of a “watch this space.”

Microsoft Windows Embedded 8.1

Windows Embbeded is the true successor to the Windows Mobile line of OS’s, it’s been a long, long time in coming but it’s here, it addresses many issues that the ageing OS had and it is spear heading Microsoft’s defence of it’s crumbling Enterprise mobile market share.

This new OS is nice to use.  On the outside, it’s looks the same as it’s consumer sister OS (Windows Phone), so it brings a really nice, decent OS to the table, however under the hood it’s very different indeed with a serious focus on enterprise and data capture application.  In summary, it is the OS they need in this space.

However the rollout of Windows Embedded has been really poor.  Relying on it’s hardware partners, communication and learning has been all but silent, there’s been rumours abound about bickering and fall-outs and the result is that even today there are only 2 devices available on the market.

The issue we’re hearing with businesses is also that porting applications from Windows Mobile is as hard or harder to do than selecting Android or IOS instead.

Again a case of watch this space as we see things pan out.

The BM180 and BP30, the first WE8.1 devices

The BM180 and BP30, the first WE8.1 devices

Our take

We deal with this almost daily now, with decent businesses just wanting to know where their hard earned money should be placed for the best mix of technology, longevity and price, but the simple answer is that we simply no longer know.  Windows Mobile is about to be superceded but most of the hardware is still based on it, Android has a good decent roadmap, but do you have the skill to port right now and you really need a decent UK based device to be supported fully.  Apple still has the issues it always did and Windows Embedded is very new and no-one knows that much about it’s roadmap just yet.

Sorry, no answers there then but if you want to talk to us to see what really is best for you then we’d be happy to hear from us.  Let us know you challenges by commenting below.


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.

Related Posts