With the proliferation of smartphones and tablet computers the mobile computing industry is going through another transition. Unlike the previous major technology refresh we experienced when the industry transitioned from DOS devices to Windows CE and then Windows Mobile, this transition is more complex. This complexity is the result of multiple operating systems such as Android, iOS, Windows 8 and others, competing device manufacturers with multiple form factors and feature sets, not to mention mobile peripherals that bring additional functionality and durability to consumer class devices. While having greater choices is generally a good thing, these choices have a cascading effect on the other elements of the mobile solution such as device selection, application selection, product life cycle, and support requirements. Let’s look at each of these in a little more detail.
Mobile devices are generally grouped based on operating system (OS), durability, and unique feature sets such as barcode scanning or wireless communication capability. Ideally, you select a device based on the mobile user’s requirements. However, what if the ideal device does not support the OS that your organization has selected as a standard?
There are plenty of mobile application providers today, however, due to the development and support costs associated with building industry specific or highly custom applications, many providers must select a subset of mobile device platforms to support. Finding the best mobile application provider for your specific mobile need may reduce the number of mobile devices available to you.
Product Life Cycle
The cross over and success of consumer smartphones and tablets can have a dramatic impact on your long-term mobile solution. Rugged mobile computer manufactures have traditionally manufactured and supported their products for 5 years or more. However, consumer devices are often replaced every 12 months with a new device. The new device often requires different peripherals, has modifications to the OS and is generally a different device. When a company is looking at the life of a mobile project, you must weigh the cost benefits of a consumer device against the long-term training, support and replacement costs of a device with a relatively short product life.
Another factor to consider is the support requirements of your mobile deployment. The more options you present to your user community, the larger the support requirements and cost. Be mindful to understand the user and project requirements at the beginning of the project and consider the support costs at each selection phase.
While choice brings complexity, it has also enabled entirely new industries and market segments to benefit from the advantages of empowering the mobile worker. Understanding your needs, doing the homework and working with experienced mobile professionals will ensure that your mobility projects and solutions meet the user, business and financial requirements that you set out to achieve.