No, the headline is not a misprint or meant to be ironic. Windows mobility solutions are in high demand right now, and anyone who thinks otherwise is missing out on some big revenue-generating opportunities. Field service organizations such as utilities, transportation companies, public safety agencies, even insurance providers are all loyal Windows users, and most are committing budget to tried-and-true Windows mobility solutions even as we speak.
“How is that possible?” you ask.
Windows Mobility Solutions in Demand
I know marketing by consumer device manufacturers left the impression that Windows mobility solutions were dead the minute Microsoft started to sunset the Windows Mobile and CE operating systems (OS). It didn’t help that “mobile computing” is most commonly associated with smartphone-like handheld mobile computers – the devices that were running Windows Mobile and CE. But mobile computers come in multiple form factors, including rugged tablets and laptops.
You can still get an enterprise rugged tablet or 2-in-1 – a mobile computer – running the latest Windows Professional OS, even if you can no longer get smaller handhelds running a modern Windows OS. That’s good news considering field-based workers tend to prefer the larger-screen mobile computers, especially when they’re reviewing blueprints, retrieving or updating GIS data, or following detailed instructions in equipment manuals in harsh outdoor conditions.
Which Mobile OS Should You Focus App Development On – or Recommend to Customers?
I wish this was a cut-and-dry answer, but it’s not. It’s not even as simple as ensuring consistency between front-line and back-office systems (which would be a clear recommendation for Windows, as there are no Android or iOS desktop options). Before making an OS recommendation to customers you must understand…
- who will be using the device?
- where they will be using the device/software. What’s needed to work in direct sunlight, snow, or rain may be different than what’s needed in the office. They may also need a device that will connect to networks in both urban and rural areas where cellular coverage varies.
- what tasks they will be using the hardware and software to complete. They may need a barcode scanner, push-to-talk capabilities, and a way to type in large volumes of data and sync with photos for reporting, for example.
- when they may need certain features or functionality to be effective. Think about the primary and adjacent use cases, as a single mobility solution should support all.
- how workers need to interact with other technology platforms and business systems via the device. Will the mobile solution need to connect to a heads-up display for remote expert support or be compatible with an RFID sled for inventory management? Will it need to sync with Windows-based information or communication systems? Is secure access required to information systems?
Once you have the persona and use case defined, you must think about requirements such as…
- solution longevity, to include the scalability of the device, the OS support lifecycle, and software extendibility.
- compatibility between the desired workflow application and preferred device form factor and functionality.
- hardware and software interoperability, as well as solution interoperability with the larger information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT) architecture.
- the resources needed to configure, secure, deploy, monitor and manage the mobility solution and whether the customer has those resources today.
Only then can you start to narrow down OS options, with the short list primarily influenced by the form factor and type of workflow software that can best satisfy the solution security, connectivity, performance, durability, functionality, scalability, compatibility and remote management requirements.
My Opinion on “Which OS is Best”
You should absolutely be recommending an Android OS to customers equipping workers with wearables and handheld mobile computers – and you should be developing and optimizing Android field service applications with great intensity. Field-based workers need rugged devices powered by a secure enterprise OS and loaded with the right workflow software. No company or government agency can afford to send their workers into the field with a device that might break or be compromised at any point in time. They must trust these devices are resilient and secure to the core, and that workers don’t have to compromise on “how” they get their work done either. The user experience matters, and – unlike consumer OS devices – enterprise devices have been engineered from the inside out to meet the extensive criteria of both workers and their employers.
That said, you should also be furiously developing field service applications for Windows rugged tablets and 2-in-1s. Windows rugged tablets still account for 75% of all rugged tablet shipments worldwide, which means that Windows mobility solutions could still account for a large part of your revenue stream if you can deliver the right software and hardware combination to customers.
To learn more about how Windows and Android mobility solutions compare in field service environments, click here.