May 22, 2018

By Marco Nielsen, Vice President, Managed Mobility Services, Stratix Corporation

Microsoft’s decision to phase out many of its legacy operating systems by 2021 caught a lot of enterprise customers by surprise, but at least the technology giant provided ample lead time before pulling the plug on software that has supported rugged mobile devices for decades.

Or did it?

While many enterprises already have shifted to new operating systems, others are putting off OS transition until the last possible minute. A sluggish shift from a Windows OS is often explained in terms of costs and the complexity of transitioning to a new system, with a genuine fear of business disruption. But risks mount if the transition is put off too long.

The various Microsoft operating systems have differing end-of-life schedules. Just visit their Lifecyle Policy page and start searching, and you will uncover a long list that Microsoft will no longer support. This data is a useful reminder that any end user rugged mobile handheld deployed for field service, warehouse management and all the other applications will ultimately need to be replaced. The lack of security patches and in-house programming expertise will dictate your transition timeframe.

Although transition costs may be considerable, delay could worsen matters as reduced productivity increases as IT departments attempt to deploy “quick fixes” to avoid operational disruptions, protect data and maintain satisfactory service levels. On the hardware side alone, VDC Research estimates that just a 1% increase in mobile device failure can lead to a 5% increase in the total cost of ownership.

While it’s late in the day for some companies, there are three business-critical actions that manufacturers can take to ensure business continuity and minimize transition costs.

Create or Update a Mobility Roadmap

Even though the countdown clock is ticking, an OS transition shouldn’t be done hastily. It requires careful planning – in other words, a roadmap.

In developing the roadmap, take time to consider multiple aspects of a changeover, including an upgrade to more versatile, stable and reliable hardware. Make sure the hardware will easily accommodate future software upgrades and technological innovations, such as imaging, connectivity to more intelligent peripherals related to the internet of things (IoT). Don’t forget to address mobile or end-point security as well as such “people factors” as management accountability or even training a help desk.

Budgeting for the transition, a new OS system and related hardware is another vital element in the roadmap. Options here include new capital expenditures or solutions such as mobility-as-a-service (MaaS), which can bundle costs into a flat monthly fee that will be paid in operating income and not as a capital expense.

If you think seriously about the MaaS option, insist on a technology refresh clause to ensure that you benefit from future upgrades.

Scope and Manage Application Migration

With Windows becoming a less viable option, Android is emerging as the new OS heavyweight in the rugged environment. Zebra Technologies has estimated that 40% of its rugged mobile computers are shipped with Android.

Android OS is getting high marks for cost effectiveness plus the comparative ease of deployment and adding new capabilities. The latter include application program interfaces (APIs) for security and hardware integration, and more robust mobile device management features.

Although CIOs and IT professionals might be tempted by the idea, straight migration might not yield the flexibility that an operating system needs to accommodate new technology and changing demands on the business. Hardware decisions must also be made with practical business needs in mind. For example, some companies are drawn to less expensive consumer devices, such as Apple’s iPad. This makes sense in some business settings, but a consumer device might not be suitable for, say, sustained use outside in extreme weather conditions.

Take the time to ask if application development should be built native or web-based, factoring in cost and the availability of internal resources. Sometimes it pays to develop a prototype with limited functionality and rely on field testing to uncover operational issues. Large-scale rollout can follow after a pilot phase and adjustments.

Deployment and support

With deadlines looming, the migration roadmap needs to be put into place as soon as possible to speed time to market. After deployment, there is the challenge of staying on top of OS developments not to mention ongoing maintenance, repair and replacement of your devices.

It may be prudent to augment an in-house team with external mobility experts who can give advice and hands-on assistance with sourcing, device security, provisioning and deploying mobile investments. Yes, there are time pressures as each Window’s operating system reached its end of life. You challenge is to move quickly but prudently to identify your options and make decisions that will have long-term payback for your company and your customers.

About Marco Nielsen, Vice President, Managed Mobility Services
Marco has over 20 years of cross-functional experience in systems architecture, operating systems, hardware and communications. Marco brings extensive experience, leadership and expertise in the development and execution of Enterprise Mobility Strategies.  Marco leads various strategic workshops across mobility subjects, oversees the deployment of mobile devices for enterprise clients, and provides relationship management with clients ensuring the ongoing recognition of value on their mobility investments.

Stratix Nielsen MarcoAbout Stratix
Stratix Corporation is the trusted advisor for many industry-leading global enterprises, offering the most comprehensive managed services portfolio to help companies operationalize and realize the full value of their mobile investments. With over 30 years of experience, Stratix has the proven outsourcing model for enterprises looking to deliver business transformative solutions with mobile technology. For more information, visit www.stratixcorp.com

Twitter: @StratixMobile