I thought I’d continue the Google Android theme this week by looking at a comparison of Android Vs the rugged markets mainstay “Windows Mobile.”  Before I go on, sorry for the very “British” joke in the image this morning, Harry hill just had to be used for this one!!

A long time ago in a galaxy far far away…. there was a little OS called Windows mobile, it had happily grown from its Pocket PC roots and changed its name every year, but importantly everyone was happy!  Suddenly PDA’s started to converge other technologies onto them though like phones, cameras and they wanted to be more connected and Windows Mobile struggled to keep up but held on.  Then non-business folk wanted to have a smartphone too and Windows Mobile broke!  Joking aside, we all know the story of how WM fell from grace in the wake of Apple IOS, Android and even Blackberry OS but in the rugged market things are very different.  We’ve only really had the choice of Windows Mobile or CE until now (See may last blog on new Android Rugged PDA’s here), so whilst my last post was possibly a tad unfair on the Android OS itself, I thought i’d give it a closer look and compare some of the main differences between the two.

Google entered the fray att he end of 2007 with an OS that is essentially a full Linux based one but completely and utterly written form the ground up for mobile devices.  Its main benefits are that it kind of includes all its networking abilities and touch screen functionality in the core making it very competent to run full-blown applications.

Web Browser

Android has a proper web browser optimised for web browsing and its second only to the iPhone in my view, better in some ways.  MIE on the Windows Mobile OS is still a clunky patched up bodged affair that’s plain awful to browse sites on.

Office and PIM apps

The difference here is stark.  WM gets you using the Mobile Office apps which are all built on top of an old Sync architecture but its a tried and tested set of apps that will give you no issues (Ahem, few issues) when trying to view and edit office documents.  It also has innate support for Exchange and push email.  Android tries to get you using Google Apps and anything Microsoft related is usually down to some app largely written by the handset makers.  It makes the Android PDA more suited to working in the cloud, but the lure of using proper Office apps is hard to get round.

Touch Screens

WM is a stylus friendly OS, even with the last gasps of WM6.5.3 or WEH6.5 (Windows Embedded Handheld) it’s just not designed to be used with fingers at all.  Android whether on a capacitive or touch screen is clearly written to be used by your finger from the ground up.  Is this a benefit in the rugged market?  I don’t know and it will be interesting to see how apps cope with signature capture and the stylus wielding engineers out there!

SDK Support

Like it or not, the SDKs at the moment are all very new for Rugged Android PDA’s and they are not as mature or fully functional as their WM counterparts.  Time will correct this but it is worth mentioning that a lot of the SDK and API functionality that you need to use features such as the barcode scanner in an effective manner are behind and often down to someone somewhere in the community writing something for them.  It’s a risk you need to think about.

Licensing and Support

This is definitely a case of not being able to have your cake and eat it.  Android is free, it can be fitted onto any PDA with the right programming expertise and you can just download build files and get going.  It’s going to mean a plethora of devices will hit the market in the coming years of all shapes and sizes.  WM is still based an old per device license.  However the benefits of this are also the cons as we’ll see different flavours or Android, different builds and versions that will be harder to support.  In the Smartphone market you can really see Android working, but in the line of business market, I’m not so sure.  We’ve already seen how Windows CE, which is also free can really make moving Rugged PDA difficult and Android will be no exception to this.

Hardware support

Plain to see.  Its 2 for Android right now and 100+ for WM or WEH.  This will change as we see new devices hit the market and Android will give smaller manufacturers a bite of the cherry but at the moment if you choose Android, you have a very limited choice of handsets, albeit very popular and very good ones!

The future

The future is going to be very interesting, and I think we can draw a lot of parallels with the old LINUX Vs Windows fight we saw in the server world here.  However the mobile world is different and I an OS that’s more open source could work far better in this market.  Whilst Android is a great OS, open source and growing in popularity, app support and developers hugely now, the fact remains in the rugged market it still needs more adoption by manufacturers and companies that are willing to support it in a mission critical world.  That my friends is where the fight will be.

The conclusion is that I like Windows Mobile, but then again I also like Google Android……Which one’s best…..FIGHT!!!

The Rugged and Mobile blog.

5 Responses

  1. Todd Blumer

    The Android port was done by SDG Systems, and we also have done an implementation for Android 2.1 on the Trimble Nomad. All of these should be upgraded to Android 2.3 by the end of this year.

    • ruggedandmobile

      Hi Todd

      Cheers for pointing that out. We actually overtly tell our customers this and even point them to the builds over your way and the SDG splashcreen gives it away on the devices themsleves we’ve seen!! In fact we send a fair few people over to you guys if they’re US based but emailing us. One question I would love to hear about is the supportability of Android as it matures on Rugged devices. Clearly there’s a drive to move to 2.3 and newer not only because some users will just want something more up to date (especially with the BM170), but there are also key things missing from 2.1 like Direct WiFi for instance. How do you think this will be supported by companies like Pidion or even by yourselves or us over here in the UK? All these OS vesions are not good for confidence or for supportability?

      Dave

  2. Todd Blumer

    Hi Dave,

    Thanks for your reply. Eventually, Pidion is planning to support Android themselves. For now, we provide support, including converting the units back to Windows Mobile, if required. This conversion also helps the repair centers. We have spoken with a couple of repair centers in Europe and they are willing to service the Android-based units. Over here in the US, MRP does service the Android units, too.

    We also view the move to Android 2.3 as high importance here. Thanks for the feedback.

    Todd

  3. JimP

    When Bluebird were first launching Android it was v2.2, 2.3, now its v2.4 and it isn’t even out formally yet. It doesn’t matter who supports it, Android is not a suitable operating system for business due to the constant change.

    • ruggedandmobile

      Jim, i’m with you on this but I am also biased as i’ve enjoyed a pretty much 100% Microsoft “Rugged PDA” market for years. Your comments aren;t wrong though and we see the changing, wayward nature of Android the biggest threat to the mission critical market. However if you have the people in house or a really great reseller and you understand the pitfalls then Android does make for a very nice OS to develop upon. One things for sure, It’ll be very interesting how this pans out and how W8 takes back some of the market in the next 12 months.