Smart phones and tablet computers are extending the reach of mobile computing solutions in the enterprise. There are many reasons for this including CPU performance, new operating systems choices, size and availability. However, the most obvious reason is device cost as compared to traditional ruggedized mobile computing options. While the initial acquisition cost of a consumer device is often 1/3 to ½ the price of a ruggedized device, this is only one piece of the true cost over the solution’s life. When evaluating device cost there are a number of factors that should be considered including:
Additional protective peripherals: Consumer devices are not designed to take a fall. As such, many enterprises purchase cases, holsters and other peripherals to protect the device from the elements and abuse.
Device life cycle: Consumer devices typically experience a 12 to 18 months life cycle before they are replaced by a newer device. While this business model works well for individuals pursuing the latest and greatest technology, it can present challenges to an enterprise. These challenges are manifested by the requirement to support multiple device types over the duration of a project. This translates to increased user training, additional complexity associated with supporting and managing larger equipment spare pools, additional burden on the help desk and the requirement to manage multiple technologies as new features are released with each new device.
Operating system upgrades and support: Like consumer devices, consumer operating systems are continually evolving and new versions being released. Some device manufactures mandate that all devices upgrade to the latest OS while others discontinue support for previous versions. This can create havoc on a population of devices used for enterprise applications as changes to the OS often require modifications to the applications that run on the devices. As such, with each new OS release, the application software must be tested and modified to ensure that the new OS does not render the application inoperable. This requires that additional software testing and development resources be deployed prior to each OS upgrade.
Repair verses replacement: While some consumer device manufactures offer extended warranty programs they usually do not include damage to the display (which accounts for the greatest number of failures). As such, most users of consumer devices simply replace damaged devices. For this reason, it is important to understand all of the environmental and usage conditions in your operation so that you can take into account the cost of replacement devices.
In the final analysis: The good news is that after reviewing the preceding factors, consumer devices are a good fit for many enterprise solutions and that in those cases were they are not, you have many choices available from traditional ruggedized device manufactures.