So it looks like Windows Mobile on Rugged Devices will be here to stay, and despite Windows Phone 7 being out, fresh and me loving it! (You can see a Windows Phone 7 verdict blog here.) I am hoping this blog will give the rugged Device crowd a little more stability in knowing where Microsoft’s faithful little OS is headed.
However we’re not expecting to see it any time soon, or even at all on a Rugged PDA and a recent internal move at Microsoft seems to clarify this. The main post from David Wurster himself can be found on the Microsoft Official Blog, David is the Senior VP of the Embedded systems group and his word should be pretty final!
In a nutshell the Windows Mobile and the Embedded teams, who have long been separate, are going to merge and will continue creating the OS for rugged devices. WP7 will take on the torch for the Smartphone/mobile phone side of the business.
So what does this mean for Rugged PDA’s, I have summarised below:
1. WP7 is highly unlikely to be seen on a Rugged PDA. Only 1 current HTC device according to the XDA forums is anywhere near suitable to carry WP7 and this means that any current Rugged PDA will not have a suitable spec. WP7 has far tighter hardware requirements making it very unlikely to see it on a Rugged PDA at all.
2. WM will continue, as will CE and these will be the focus OS’s for Rugged PDA’s. This means that Microsoft sees the Rugged PDA as an instrument to run your business solutions rather than a mobile phone.
3. Due to their nature Semi-Rugged PDA’s could use either or both, either way its going to be a tough market for these devices now where they are positioned more like rugged smartphones than rugged PDA’s that are lighter etc. It will no doubt lead some users down the non-rugged route in favour of WP7.
Is this good or bad news? Well for customers who want a semi-rugged or Rugged PDA and were hoping to take advantage of WP7 are going to be disappointed, it means that there will be no 1 OS that they can use across their whole mobile estate and with Rugged PDA’s already available with Android, this could spell trouble for the Microsoft grip in the Rugged Market.
The good news is that the market will no doubt segment further and rugged PDA’s will specialise rather than generalise which I think is a good thing for the market and the users. WM is a great platform to build mobile applications on top of and I think its in the best team now to get the maximum focus for the future.
As for the fast growing semi-rugged market where the OS is used as well as for a mobile business application, I think this is at risk of becoming a right mess for customers who will have a pressure to go WP7 and none rugged. I can’t see this being allowed to happen though as there is no doubt a huge demand for semi-rugged PDA’s.
So with WP7 being somewhat of an exciting and welcomed update to the little Microsoft OS, it seems there is a sting in the tail for us Rugged peeps. What we’ll be very interested in is where the Embedded team now take this.
The Rugged and Mobile blog.