The Audacity of Hope

Eleven years ago Steve Jobs stood on the stage and boldly introduced the iPhone, sending a shockwave through the technology community and ushering in a new era for mobile devices. A year later, the Android platform was introduced – the Darth Vader to the Jedi iPhone. Instead of being told what you need, Android provided openness and experimentation. Unlocking the potential of a mobile device and providing a counterbalance to Apple’s closed (these are not the Droids you seek) operating system. This new wave of devices opened the door to numerous possibilities in enterprise mobility. These devices also required new types of enterprise administration through mobile device management tools. Some companies are testing and investing heavily in replacing rugged, Windows CE legacy devices with cheaper and sleeker consumer mobile devices.

Target’s Shot Across the Bow

For the uninitiated, acquiring rugged mobile devices (especially at scale) is an intensive exercise. It involves negotiations with value-added resellers for the actual devices, device insurance, repair services and sometimes even storing a pool of spare devices. These devices are not cheap either, often costing more than $1000 per device.

With the availability of consumer devices at a fraction of the cost of rugged devices, many enterprises invested millions of dollars in deploying consumer-grade devices. From a numbers standpoint as a business use-case, this was a slam dunk to sell to leadership. You can imagine the pitch went something like this:

CIO/CTO: “We are going to deploy Apple devices which are 1/5th of the price of our legacy devices. Even if we replace every device twice we are still spending less money. Also, everyone is familiar with iOS devices and Apple has spent millions on user experience that we can leverage for our applications.”

CEO/CFO: “Approved!”

Many retailers like Target, Lowes, JCPenney and others took this fateful leap of deploying consumer devices replacing rugged legacy devices. However, these retailers have since moved back to rugged devices like the Zebra TC70 & TC51. Here is what their leadership missed by not having the appropriate context for what makes enterprise rugged devices special and worth the investment:

  • Drop Specs: Can the device handle hundreds of drops from 4-6 feet and continue to function normally?
  • Battery Cycles: In some environments, devices will run 24 hours a day, every day. What is the charge cycle for the battery and can it be replaced easily?
  • Missing Devices: Consumer devices seem to get lost and end up on eBay at a higher rate than their rugged counterparts.
  • Mobile Device Management: Some consumer devices are harder to manage than others. Apple devices, for example, have a narrow set of features for mobile device management and the enterprise administration. Conversely, Samsung devices with support from Knox can support almost any enterprise scenario.
  • Analytics: Some devices will not allow for granular data to be captured. This goes hand-in-hand with mobile device management. Take time to understand the analytics requirements and experiment to validate that the information can be captured.
  • Harsh Environments: Most consumer devices are not specced for harsh environments and rely on expensive cases/sleeves to meet certain rugged requirements.

If your organization is dealing with any of the above scenarios when replacing legacy devices, then save yourself the pain of trying to make the impossible possible. However, there is a right way to leverage consumer devices in the enterprise.

Make sure to check out Part 2 of this series! Contact us for additional information on our services.

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Richard Makerson

Richard Makerson

Managing Partner - As the co-founder of BlueFletch, Richard is a Technical Manager with skills in Mobile, Microsoft .NET, and J2EE Application Development. Richard has also trained, deployed, and supported multiple application tiers across complex production environments. He has extensive technical experience in native, cross-platform and web-based mobile application development. Richard holds a BS in Computer Science from Morehouse College.