One of the most perplexing issues facing the enterprise handheld mobile device market today is the variety of operating system (OS) options. In the past, Windows CE/Mobile handhelds were the clear choice with little to no competition outside of homegrown systems. Now, three operating systems have emerged on the market: Windows 10 IOT mobile, Android and iOS. So, where do we go from here? Throughout this piece, benefits and challenges will be highlighted for each OS option.
Vendors’ line cards contain a wide variety of Windows CE/Mobile devices. All primary form factors are available and accessory options are plentiful. In fact, it’s very difficult to find a requirement where a Windows CE/Mobile device is not available, including the plentiful print drivers and terminal emulation (TE) options. However, it has not seen a significant update since 2009 and Microsoft updates will end between 2018 and early 2020 depending on the version. Hardware vendors are pledging to support as they can for several years after.
Emerging on the market are various Windows 10 IoT Mobile Enterprise editions. Devices are available but form factors are limited. Those that are available have a full array of accessory options. Upgrading to Windows 10 IoT Mobile will likely require enterprise customers to revisit their applications for updates. Vendors are loading various versions of Windows 10 IoT Mobile, which challenges software development efforts. Microsoft’s own messaging is changing from Mobile First, Cloud First to Intelligent Cloud, indicating a lack in conviction to produce a quality mobile OS. Lastly, Microsoft’s Corporate Vice President for Windows, Joe Belfiore, announced they will continue to service Windows 10 Mobile with bug fixes and security patches only.
Apple has a loyal following with around 14.7%* of the consumer smartphone market share. It’s difficult to find market share numbers for iOS in the enterprise space, but they do have notable wins in direct store delivery (DSD).
Apple lacks a ruggedized handheld mobile device. Most Apple users supplement Apple devices with high-end cases/mounts, which add significant cost, bulk and weight to the solution. Handheld scanners and enterprise sleds (holders that consumers slide devices in for additional functionality) are readily available for a price. Most new thermal printers have iOS drivers available as well. However, legacy printers are likely to need replacement due to the lack of a driver.
Apple’s hardware presents a challenge to enterprise clients accustomed to purpose-built devices with enterprise accessory packages: 4-plus year lifecycles, built-in dedicated scan engines, sunlight viewable screens, loud speakers, noise-cancelling microphones, wide-operating temperature ranges and large-capacity, hot-swappable batteries. Apple’s strengths lie in hardware advancements that are ideal in the consumer space. Due to those strengths, iOS is driving enterprise device innovation as they raise end users’ expectations of how a device should look, feel and perform.
Android is the dominant player in the consumer smartphone space utilizing 85%* of the market. In the enterprise space, they are rapidly gaining market share. Every prominent vendor in the space has Android solutions in their line card. To further cement their place in the enterprise, Google is active in forming partnerships with vendors and ISVs. They offer these partners pre-release visibility into their next generation OS, allowing for an aggressive implementation of the most recent OS into the rugged environment.
Device form factors and accessory packages are plentiful and expanding every quarter. Enterprise hardware vendors are using the flexibility of Android to create form factors that break the mold of traditional products. Solutions that fit all budgets are readily available today. All scan engine requirements are covered and drivers for new printers are common, but most legacy printers will require a refresh.
Google is now making great strides in security and enterprise features, as they are actively engaged with the primary vendors in the ruggedized space. Their intent is to provide a product that enterprise customers are comfortable using throughout their supply chains.
In summary, Windows challenges users with end-of-support for CE/Mobile. Windows 10 devices are limited in availability and are difficult for developers to support. iOS limits itself with limited device options for most enterprise applications. The clear leader in the space is Android. All major vendors are pushing hard on their Android line cards. Google and chip manufacturers are listening to the enterprise space. Security concerns are being eliminated; embedded chipsets from chip OEMs give full lifecycle availability. The user experience is outstanding, as most users are very comfortable with the OS from day one.
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