In a recent Intel Grid Insights blog, I spoke about how IT and systems engineers are constantly seeking out the best-fitting technology available today to execute their programs – whether they’re working on the next Apollo-like space mission or trying to automate field service workflows in the age of smart grid. I noted that NASA would never launch an Apollo module on top of a Saturn V rocket today because the technology used for Apollo was great in the 1960s, but is now outdated. But here’s the thing: Technology innovation is indeed occurring at an unprecedented pace across multiple industries, and we always want to have the best technology available for use in our personal and professional lives. Yet it’s very possible that the best technology available today for the job at hand is not necessarily technology that was created today - or yesterday, or even six months ago.
The shelf-life of many well-built –and distinctly purposeful – technologies is often longer than you may think, especially if they were designed to be scalable or applied to multiple use cases. Granted, the Apollo technology was neither. But the point is this: We’ve grown accustomed to replacing personal smartphones, tablets, and laptops – and even business-use mobile devices – every two years. That’s because commercial, off-the-shelf devices aren’t built with longevity in mind. Neither commercial-grade device manufacturers nor their channel partners make money if you don’t upgrade frequently, even if the upgrade only features a slight change. Their business models are built around rip-and-replace, fast churn.
Unlike consumer tablets, rugged tablets have the features that your software and workers need today as well as those they will need over the next few years. With powerful processors, replaceable batteries, and the most current radios – they have the tools you need to support the work you need to do. But unlike consumer tablets, they’ll survive the knocks and drops, dust and rain that are part of the job. Rugged devices have the “internals” as well as the “externals” that are right for many jobs; they will still be functioning long after the average non-rugged device has reached its limit.
But the short-lived relevance of commercial grade devices is by design, and its frequent upgrade requirement creates a trickle effect that results in new accessory purchases as well. Every time a mobile PC manufacturer changes the materials, shape, and look of a device to keep up with design ethic of today, “rugged” cases intended to make the tablet more durable – and accessories to make the tablet more useful in the field – have to be replaced. They no longer provide the right fit or proper protection for the older generation devices. (Ever notice that the newest product is just a few millimeters bigger or smaller?)
Rugged tablets, however, are designed for the long haul. These manufacturers understand that keeping the form factor the same is the design ethic, today and tomorrow. By adhering to this design standard and creating a device that does not need an exterior case to ensure durability, manufacturers ensure that customers who have bought carrying cases, device docks/mounts, and other holders won’t have to change those accessories for years to come. Plus, with rugged tablets, customers gain the confidence that built-in barcode scanners, RFID readers, and smart card readers are always there on the job. It’s all about consistency – much like a restaurant dining experience.
While both fast casual and fine dining restaurants aim to secure customer loyalty, they take very different approaches to doing so. Fast casual restaurants are in the business of turning tables. They’re focused on pushing as much product as possible, as fast as possible. While not intentionally diminishing the quality of their product or the customers’ service experience, both tend to be inconsistent across this highly franchised environment. Customers settle, understanding that the cheaper option comes with a hit-or-miss experience – much like the compromises that businesses make when opting for a lower-cost consumer tablet over a more robust feature set or longer product life.
On the other hand, fine dining restaurants place greater emphasis on delivering a higher quality product, more attentive and customized service, and a longer lasting customer experience with a greater return on investment (ROI) – much like the rugged tablet PC model that’s built-to-last for years and complemented by the fast responsiveness of a valued OEM partner (not just a random sales rep).
Even the “best” off-the-shelf business mobile tablet or notebook on paper is not likely to come with the level of quality service and support that manufacturers, transportation companies, the military, utilities, or public safety agencies will need to confidently create a scalable mobility solution with the desired ROI. Buying a “great” product with all the bells and whistles only goes so far if you don’t know how to maximize the full feature set or you find later compatibility issues with its intended software, peripherals, or operating environment. The latter is one of the main drivers of frequent replacement losses and wasted resources among organizations who either don’t know the risks of buying non-rugged devices, or feel that the lower upfront costs equate to cost savings. They don’t.
Is your mobile PC really built to last? Learn more about what to look for when evaluating business-use mobile devices in our latest guide . It equips you with everything you’ll need to assess the durability and longevity of your next high-performing mobile computer. Download Guide Now >