Handhelds and ‘end of life’ as we know it

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For many years, the most important operating systems underpinning rugged mobile devices have come from Microsoft.

Indeed, its software has dominated the space but come June 2018, support for Windows Embedded CE 6.0 will come to its end of life (EoL). A year later in June 2019, Windows Embedded 8.1 Handheld reaches its EoL, and in January 2020 support comes to an end on Windows Embedded Handheld 6.5.

For many manufacturers and logistics firms, these dates may go unnoticed. Indeed, as long as the devices keep working and no major system upgrades are planned, organisations may experience little difference. But once their hardware becomes EoL too it will be time to move on to something else, and far better to be prepared than not.

Microsoft has made no secret of the fact that support for its Windows CE and Windows Embedded Handheld software is coming to an end. It’s likely that any Windows devices bought now will, in all probability, be run way beyond their cut-off dates for support. And while a few large enterprises may wield sufficient clout to negotiate their own support directly with Microsoft, it won’t be an option for the vast majority of companies using this type of technology.

Android OS from Google is fast emerging as the alternative yet, despite evidence of many large and successful roll-outs in logistics and transportation, there has been a reluctance for widespread adoption of it in the warehouse.

The hesitancy around adopting it seemed to be security and reliability but the vendor community has been addressing these issues by releasing fully ruggedised versions of their products, often with familiar form factors and keyboard layout options. Additionally, brands like Zebra are investing large amounts of resources into providing support for Android with their mobility extensions (MX).

Many have argued that Android was built for the consumer market with many of the features needed for enterprises not ‘baked in’ as standard. But MX delivers the ‘missing link’ in that it provides enterprise-class security and manageability, as well as superior Wi-Fi experience. MX also offers the ability to lock-down devices like rugged smartphones and totally control what is installed and by whom.

In addition to working with current mobile device management (MDM) tools, Zebra also provides regular security updates for devices when issues are discovered, reported or released by Google. So, finally it seems there’s a variant of Android OS robust enough to stand up to warehouse challenges, and one that can be managed and considered a true enterprise product.

It’s probably worth noting here that when it comes to rugged environments a number of things often get disregarded like:

  • The operating systems on Windows mobile devices are rarely updated, maybe because they’re not seen as exciting or imperative. But that’s no excuse to not treat devices differently to any other computing device attached to a network. The ensuing security horror stories could be immense!
  • Enterprises don’t believe the tools exist enabling them to manage their printers to the same level of efficiency as their mobile devices.
  • Warehouses are often driven by pain-related, reactive responses rather than strategic level investment projects found in other areas of the business.

Thinking needs to change if manufacturers and logistics operators are to fully exploit the advances made in printing and to maximise the flexibility offered by modern operating systems in mobile devices. The life expectancy of devices in warehouse environments is about seven years so when it comes to EoL in either software or hardware, firms need to capitalise on the options available to improve productivity and get a better ROI.

For some that’ll mean capital outlay while for an increasing number of firms, rental is proving the better option. Renting devices allows companies to outsource the ownership, deployment, management and support of their hardware for a set monthly fee. At the end of the term, they have the options to terminate, upgrade or extend the contract.

Renting eliminates the capital outlay of replacing/upgrading depreciating equipment, and also allows firms to access hardware on demand to cope with fluctuating and seasonal demands.

Renovotec is the UK’s fastest growing provider of rugged mobile hardware; as well as delivering end to end managed & consultancy services, wireless networking, enterprise mobility, mobile data capture, printing and hardware rentals solutions.

With over 25 years of industry experience, Renovotec supports customers across multiple industry verticals – including warehousing, transport & logistics, manufacturing and field mobility.

Richard Gilliard

Renovotec is the UK’s largest independent rugged hardware and maintenance, software and services company. Managing Director Richard Gilliard has helped lead the organisation for over 15 years, supporting customers across many sectors including warehousing and distribution, transport and logistics, manufacturing, retail, healthcare, seaports and field mobility. Richard's drive is to enable firms through…


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