As you know, we’ve changed a lot over the past 4 months and it’s not just because of what we wanted to do, it’s also a lot about how fast technology changes in the smart mobile industry too. One aspect that has seen unprecedented change has been in the mobile operating system, or OS. In under a decade we’ve gone from effectively working with 1 mobile operating system in the enterprise, to 4 or 5 and it’s growing all the time. How are businesses supposed to choose and commit to a technology, often investing critical amounts into the decision, without knowing what’s going on?
This blog tries to give you a true update, insider take on what’s going on and what we feel will happen in the mobile OS world.
First of all lets get this out of the way. Blackberry is all but dead, get over it! They don’t even use BBOS on their latest phones, preferring to tweak a version of Android instead and they’re all but gone. They were never really an enterprise ready solution anyway and simply couldn’t keep pace with newer systems as they were released. For similar reasons to Nokia, they struggled with the emerging, connected requirements of the consumer world, let alone the business and enterprise ones and they have both now all but dies.
The same goes for Windows CE, which was once a much favoured operating system for enterprise mobile data capture devices. I was right there and I remember spending weeks working on bespoke interfaces for clients, charging a lot of money for them. You also still still it a lot on cheaper Chinese devices that put CE on them due to the zero license costs involved to keep the price of their devices down. However as mobile evolved, we needed the built in API’s for things like Phones and wireless connectivity to remain productive so Windows Mobile took over. Microsoft still have a version of Windws CE, but they have all but stated that they don’t want to see it on mobile devices, only embedded ones that the OS was developed for in the first place.
So everyone knows that, if you buy a rugged data capture device, you use Windows mobile on it don’t you? Well this has changed hugely in the past few years. Firstly Windows Mobile 6.5 is terribly out of date with no core development been done for years and even built in SSL certicates are reaching expiry (see here how you can get round this), however it’s still soldering on as its’ the only choice that many hardware manufactures have at the moment if they want to sell serious Windows mobile based devices. S it’s being supported largely by the hardware manufacturers.
The successor to WM is Windows Embedded 8.1, however this has become such a private club according to many of the suppliers I know that, despite it’s launch date of around 18 months ago now there are still only a handful of devices available. It would be unwise for anyone to talk about any kind of success here with this low level of activity.
They also have the Windows Phone conundrum to settle, which is a firmly consumer based OS that has all but failed too.
I recently listened to Microsoft’s latest take on the mobile OS market and what I and others gleaned from that is that they are pulling out. What does that mean to the enterprise OS? Well in true Microsoft fashion, who knows! Is that what you want to base your business upon in the next 2-3 years?
Apple build great kit, there’s no getting away for that and there’s no getting away from their size and the weight they can bear on any market they want to. However Apple has a consumer attitude to business making using their products a great risk to many businesses and it also make it a risk to partner with them as a supplier as they chop and change their focus at will. however their partnership with IBM has given them a more busines-like approach to enterprise customers and despite personally thinking they’re not right for most businesses, I still think you have to watch them.
So far it’s all been pretty glum news but there’s still an OS to talk about!
Android has been a huge success story in the consumer market, today taking over 85% of the global sales of smartphone sales and also taking more market share than ever in developed nations like the USA and UK. However whilst all eyes have been fixed on the consumer market, a little revolution has been happening in the business and enterprise markets. It seems innovation has been going on and there are indeed a lot of rugged handsets now available for Android. In fact in our last year re-selling multiple brands, we were outselling Windows based devices with Android ones by about 70/30 and the year before that was 50/50.
So what happened?
From talking to a lot of businesses who chose an Android route, I summed up the top reasons why it is now being chosen:
- Android poses the least risk to business/enterprise users – Android is the only OS that is vibrant, here to stay and without a behemoth company in control who could take it away or change it at the bat of an eye. Sure it has some issues but so do all OS’s but Android right now seems to be the only OS to choose if you need a 2-3 year strategy and you need to implement it right now.
- Developer community & Innovation – Android is easier to learn and port apps from Microsoft solutions than it is to port to Windows Embedded 8.1. I can personally vouch for that too. It’s highly innovative with multiple feature releases every year and it’s getting better and better every year too. Also the developer community is strong, there’s been a real tipping point the past 2 years where Android has become the skill programmers want/need to do with demand for their skills now outstripping supply.
- Suppliers are better – Put simply Android skilled mobile suppliers are in fact rare but if you find on then they’re usually committed, have deep expertise and are there for you and your business. We’ve noticed this and it’s one of the key reasons we removed our reselling business.
- Device choice and price – Android actually has real rugged, data capture options, unlike Apple. However unlike Microsoft based devices Android ones also tend to be much cheaper. We’d never advise on cost here as you get what you pay for, however we’d also tell you that many of the incumbent brands are over priced too so if your business doesn’t have to put its neck on the line to make a few decision on it’s mobile strategy it underlines why Android could be the stop gap solution for now or the fact could be budget driven anyway.
So what now?
Basically we’re worried about Microsoft, despite being incumbent for many years in the enterprise industry we think there time’s up. Apple are one to watch though. Despite not being rugged or the cheapest devices on the market and also being at the behest of Apple 100% of the time, if they line a few planets up then that could all change. Like Android Apple has a big following too and plenty of innovation and developers in their communities. I’d watch that space.
However if making a decision today, there is really only one OS to choose and that’s Android. Find yourself someone that can truly guide you through the Android world and you’ll get a pretty decent mobile platform for a great price that is actually highly innovative and able to support you for years.
If you want to come chat about any of this further then just drop us an email or comment on the sections below. I’d love to hear what you think and open up a debate!