Well the problem is that the mobile industry is changing like the wind and we have to change with it as customers both consumer, business and enterprise demand ever changing equipment to run ever updated software and user habits. So why is the Rugged PDA dead and what do you do now!
Lets start by going back in time, way back…(Insert twighlight music here!) The year is 2005 and Rugged rules in the market place. Why would you not invest heavily up front into technology that wasn’t going to change, could be repairable for years and effectively gave you a TCO over a 3-7 year period. Life was easy, life was simple and everyone undertsood where they were. You use a smartphone and it’ll break, it won;t have a viable life-cycle or roadmap and whilst good for business users or testing, they were no good for enterprise applications.
However the landscape changed. Lets add in the following:
Multiple Operating Systems
Back then it was all about Windows Mobile, OK the odd customer used CE but thats another story and to develop both was very similar and used the same tools. Today, we have Android and IOS though and these have not only run riot in the consumer world taking all of the “Mobile thought process” but they are also maturing and starting to take on Enterprise in a serious way.
Spec and flexibility of hardware
Windows mobile is ageing and Microsoft has been terribly poor at communicating out it’s latest WE8.1 OS, that has had a terrible pilot and rollout. To add to that even at launch this OS is already out of line with the v10 suite of OS’s so customers are stuck on Windows mobile which is an ageing platform, out of support and unable to support many of today’s business processes. Rugged PDA’s are effectively becoming dinosaurs in their own back garden and I can vouch for that seeing a lot of new opportunities going to cheaper less rugged Android devices these days.
Expanding Mobile adoption
At the smae time as this mobile in general has become the standard in business not the innovative new fangled thing. So mobile devices are used for all kinds of applications in business and enterprise that they were not originally seen in. So Rugged PDA’s have effectively been stuck in a legacy world of warehgouse, barcoding and perhaps high risk to damage environments like oil rigs or ATEX scenarios, where they still have a use. However all the time the mobile market is deployed on newer more flexible, cheaper devices which are in turn becoming the norm in these legacy environments too.
At the same time users have now all owned and come to rely on their beloved smartphones in their every day lives. Do you really think they want a qwerty keypad monster that weighs 1KG and has a barcode scanner in it when it comes to work? No they want Android or IOS, they want big screens and they want something that’s familiar to use quickly. Not only are these “kids of the mobile age” now making the decisions in business but with the proliferation of BYOD (thats bring your own device to you and me) in business, applications, support and services have been forced to adopt IOS and Android in a big way.
I haven’t even started on Apple and IBM’s Enterprise partnership or Samsung’s KNOX or the plethora of software houses all writing only for Android or IOS.
It’s easy to see the issues, but what’s the answer to this then? Smartphones tend to have the same issues as they have always had but they also have many benefits too. Add to this consumer devices have now started to react bringing all kinds of accessories and ecosystems to the business customer in a decent attempt to offer a genuine rugged alternative. However many still don;t address the main coners of businesses users:
- Battery life
- Life cycle management
- Security and locking down
On the other hand, the classic rugged PDA also has all kinds of Achilles heels and to some degree are only selling into the legacy markets I am talking about. Even the half way attempts at building cheaper, smaller devices still leaves a lot of the issues surrounding OS and design issues
However there is an opportunity that exists here for the Hybrid rugged device. These are slim, fully rugged but familiar devices that address biggest concerns of Enterprise users above but also pander to their software “Consumer” sides too. Is it really possible that we’re seeing a new age of rugged device that will power business and enterprise for the years to come?
I’m showing my age when I tell you this, but one of my childhood films was Ferris Buellers Day off and i’ll leave you with the opening line from that:
“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
Mobile moves faster than life, Long live the hybrid device!