Intermec Rugged PDA Range Explained

Despite what you might hear, Intermec Rugged PDA’s are still the 2nd largest supplier in the UK.  They got close to trouble 2 years ago, but have bounced back remaining true to their rugged roots with new devices being released this and last year.

Brief History

Intermec make rugged PDA’s and this is the focus of their business, having only a handful of barcode scanners in their range.  They have been through a lot of mergers and acquisitions in the past decades where they have bought in RFID expertise and bolstered their positioning as “technology leaders” in our industry.  It’s hard being a technology leader these days but there are still glimpses of this in their newest devices where focus on battery energy and the higher echelons of emerging mobile needs is clear.  Despite all the commercial goings on Intermec have been around for many years in one guise or another but officially became Intermec in 2006.

Positioning

It’s always interesting to watch an Intermec presentation as they would argue that there are few devices on the market that rival their devices for ruggedness, something we’re going to put to the test soon.  Their devices are decent quality though, backed up by probably the best manufacturer lead service at the moment for the price in our view and users tend to stick with them, especially in the warehouse rugged PDA market where they have remained strong.

Intermec has however lost a lot of ground in the field mobile market in the past 2-3 years where it has struggled to cope with a confusing, aging and expensive range of Rugged PDA’s.  However in the past 12 months this has been focussed on heavily with a largely brand new, smaller and simpler range of rugged handhelds. Intermec consider themselves technology leaders and their range of RFID solutions is something we feel here they have on other brands like Motorola.  They also offer some unique devices with features that are also unique which we like to see! They have also got some interesting partnerships with device management and service partners so they are well positioned to offer a good one stop shop.

Pricing

Pricing is at the top of the scale, some of this is about brand but depending on the device you are looking at, it is clear that most have been more thoughtfully designed when it comes to ruggedness.  I think this is why they have kept pace in warehousing but not in the field mobile area where people are not necessarily looking for quality and ruggedness with many offering enough in this area.  It’s a fact that we have never got an Intermec CN50 close to the price of a Motorola MC55 and arguably the MC55 is a better device.

Range

You can broadly split the Intermec Rugged PDA range up into 2 streams: Field mobile (See image above):

  • CS40 – Small Rugged PDA, (not yet officially available).
  • CN50 – Lightweight fully rugged PDA
  • CN70 – Heavy Rugged PDA

Warehouse:

  • CK3 – Low cost warehouse Rugged handheld
  • CK70 – Heavy duty warehouse Rugged PDA
  • CV30/60 – Rugged Fixed mount computers.

Newest models and Recent Highlights

  • Q4 2010  – CS40
  • Q1 2011 – CN70
  • HF & UHF RFID products to fit many of their devices.

I have left out older models that we simply never sold like the CN4, “e” models and the CK32 is discontinued.

The Rugged and Mobile Take

I drew the short straw on this blog because no-one here wanted to do the Intermec one for some odd reason.  I had a good think about why and I think the answer i came to actually sums up Intermec.  There’s nothing really unique or special about their devices.  Sure the service is great, sure they have a good one stop shop for things like device management, RFID and service portals and sure they have got a far nicer and better range of devices.  So whats the problem then?  Well a lot of the software is bought in and you can go get it direct or for other devices, in a world where we’re going back to a market where choice and unique solutions is paramount.  The devices are expensive and they are still hard to sell against Motorola equivalents.  People are past the IP and drop spec issues these days so take away the ruggedness and you’re left with devices that are late coming to market and still possibly not quite special enough.  Time will tell though.  On the flip side of this though in terms of risk and quality I think Intermec have it on Motorola “at this time”, with what is arguably a more personable and less risky choice.  If Motorola are the Ford of the Rugged world then Intermec have to be the Volkswagen. We like Intermec here, we always have done but we also worry that they have their sights too firmly set on Motorola and not the rest of the market who are quietly working away in the right way.  We find out more starting with Pidion tomorrow. The Rugged and Mobile blog.

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.

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