There is a great deal of hype these days about “digital transformation”. The term can span from simply going paperless to applying digital technologies to refine and optimize business models and workflows. Not surprisingly, the enterprise opportunities associated with digital transformation have attracted a lot of attention, particularly from consulting vendors and service providers. Unfortunately, this attention has led to confusion in the marketplace as to what digital business transformation means, and as a consequence, it has been inconsistently defined and unevenly applied and measures to address it have tended to be unreliable and incomparable. VDC Research has a simple definition for digital transformation: it is the integration of digital technologies and business models to engender organizational change while improving employee productivity, performance and customer engagement and service. A critical component of today’s digital transformation strategies is migrating legacy mobile applications running on aging equipment to take advantage of more sophisticated and functional modern mobile solutions and their intuitive interfaces.
One such example is the ubiquitous ruggedized handheld computer, the de facto hardware used for data collection and processing across a variety of workflows in virtually every industry. These devices are widely deployed in warehouses and distribution centers for inventory and material management applications, courier delivery drivers supporting parcel delivery verification, and beverage distributors supporting digital exchange. Organizations rely on these devices to conduct business critical applications and operations in real time. However, the dominant OS supporting this ecosystem of devices is quickly approaching its end of life, leaving current customers with no clear migration path forward. Put another way, no matter which OS platform an enterprise looks to deploy next to support its business-critical applications, each application will require recoding and rework, as it will not be compatible with modern mobile platforms. Moreover, these legacy devices fall well short of today’s mobile standards across all performance, functionality and usability criteria, ultimately limiting their potential impact on business operations. VDC has tracked these deployments, and estimates that there are 15 to 20 million legacy rugged handheld devices currently deployed supporting various line-of-business (LOB) applications.
Microsoft’s Windows CE and Windows Embedded Handheld 6.5 have long tenure as the OS platforms of choice for the majority of these deployment scenarios. The portfolio of devices and form factors is broad, development tools are mature, and the developer community is sizeable. In addition, with support from Microsoft for the past decade, businesses have been able to effectively manage and maintain their deployments (often longer than expected). But change has been forced on this ecosystem, with Microsoft’s end of life of its prolific Windows platforms looming, and the emergence of a new generation of modern Android-powered purpose-built ruggedized handheld devices not to mention the flood of smartphones being used in various corporate settings.
If your organization maintains ruggedized mobile deployments, there are several important dates that should be marked on your calendars:
- June 10, 2018 — Windows Embedded CE 6.0 will be End of Life
- June 9, 2019 — Windows Embedded 8.1 Handheld will be End of Life
- January 14, 2020 — Windows Embedded Handheld (WEH) 6.5 will be End of Life
Preparing for Microsoft’s most prolific Windows Embedded Operating Systems End of Life is essential for any organization maintaining these deployments; the devices impacted are often required for day-to-day job-related activities/functions of their users.
Simplifying And Benefiting from App Migration
A recent VDC survey shows that 56% of organizations plan on upgrading their existing fleet of mobile devices because these devices are nearing their end of life and/or the old age of their existing devices. In addition, the motivation to upgrade applications to a more visual and modern user interface was cited by one in four respondents as a critical factor influencing their upgrade decision. This is notable, as many ruggedized mobile deployments in use today are text-oriented and keyboard-centric solutions. Our data also showed that when evaluating next-generation mobile platforms, security, lifecycle support, and ensuring business continuity were most frequently cited as key requirements.