Right now there is a battle taking place in the device market. As consumerisation tightens its vice-like grip on the industry, traditional PC and laptop players now compete for market share with big brand consumer players who profess to have taken the user experience that people have learnt to expect from their consumer devices and are now harnessing this to improve the business device experience.
As a direct consequence key decision makers within the business world are often confused by the blurring of the lines between business devices and consumer mobile, struggling to decide what the best device is for their field workers. For example, do they really need a fully ruggedised device, which can sometimes be more expensive than some consumer products?
For many there is no longer the clear distinction between consumer and business, especially with the emergence of BYOD. In the not too distant past, you could easily differentiate that a consumer device was for entertainment and personal use, such as checking emails, browsing the Internet, using web-based applications or viewing streaming media. They were slick, light and pleasing to the eye.
Ruggedised/business devices on the other hand were altogether different. These were designed to be used in business, primarily in tough environments that required a more durable and robust design, and the associated features needed to outfit field workers and service technicians. Their primary function was to collect data in a place/scenario where there was a high chance of the device being dropped or damaged. These devices also had to stand up to the dust and debris that are commonplace in an environment like a warehouse, work site or volatile surroundings such as an oil rig. Highly functional, they were not considered slick or light and were not pleasing on the eye.
The consumerisation of IT has precipitated a sea change with demand increasing for the combination of consumer-grade, yet rugged and robust devices. We now expect devices to be thinner, lighter and faster. We have fallen in love with the sleekness of consumer devices, smartphones and tablets with so much functionality. We have tens of thousands of apps at our fingertips that enable everything from planning a holiday to paying our bills.
That said, from a business perspective, there is also the requirement for devices to contain multiple ports, have adequate battery life, and be transportable as we move from location to location and the ability to function in all weather conditions. These are all important considerations when choosing your device, particularly if you operate in a challenging environment.
With this in mind, here are a few considerations to ponder when choosing your next device:
A consumer mobile device simply isn’t built to last as long as rugged devices are. According to a VDC Research Report in 2013, non-rugged devices are 100 per cent more likely to fail than rugged devices. The consumer device’s lifecycle is measured in months, while a rugged device’s lifespan is measured in years.
Over a five-year period, the total cost of ownership of a consumer device is in fact 50 per cent higher than a rugged device, with many users replacing their consumer devices two or three times in this period shelling out much more money than they’d originally planned.
The VDC research study also showed that the average device failure creates approximately 80 minutes of worker downtime. So it’s not just the replacement and repair costs to consider, but the lost man-hours incurred. By using a rugged device that minimises downtime you increase productivity and promote a faster workforce, able to get the job done more efficiently.
Consumer devices have built-in security, but not at the higher level of an enterprise-grade device. With the advent of BYOD companies are opening up networks to all sorts of risks. Accessing your company data via a consumer-grade device that might also be used for downloading videos, uploading photos and careless browsing could compromise the company network. A rugged device is designed for business use and includes security features that adhere to strict compliance guidelines and protect devices from being compromised.
In light of the recent hacking incidents over the past year security is priority for most companies, especially those that handle sensitive data. By using devices that stick to the most stringent compliance procedures, companies have peace of mind that their systems are protected against these types of attacks.
Previously, consumer devices outshone ruggedised devices when it came to convenience and aesthetics. If you put a consumer device next to a rugged device, the design, touchscreen, and vast choice of applications when looking at the consumer models made the rugged product look sluggish and outdated. This has changed. Many of today’s rugged devices look and feel like a consumerised smartphone or tablet. Put them side by side and you’ll see more of a likeness. Most rugged devices are also now Android and Windows compatible, making data easy to transfer between operating systems.
Equally, is the consumer trend of moving to the sleekest design at the expense of usability? For example, on the latest mega thin devices, VGA and full size USB ports have generally been disposed of in favour of design. Businesses still require these ports for many daily tasks, such as presenting and connecting to the network and having this connectivity can be vital to a mobile business worker.
It’s evident that business rugged devices now offer a modernised and practical option for mobile workers in all sectors. Designed to offer protection for key components such as display, hard disk and keyboard (those more frequently damaged in conventional notebooks), the business rugged models allow professionals to stay active and on the move with none of the usual concerns regarding damage or failure of their mobile PC or tablet.
So next time you are looking, don’t be swayed by the bells and whistles of some of those shiny new consumer devices as you may find they present a bit of a false economy when you are replacing device after device, year after year.
Jan Kaempfer, General Manager for Marketing for Panasonic Computer Product Solutions