Enterprise, consumer devices begin to morph
It used to be that the consumer side of the device market got all of the sexy form factors. But as consumer devices make their way into the enterprise in a big way — iPhones, Droids and other smartphones are being taken to work in droves — it appears that vendors are beginning to combine the more exciting features of such devices with a more ruggedized form factor.
Simply, consumer devices don’t cut it in terms of durability and battery life in the enterprise. David Krebs, analyst with VDC Research, says that as more enterprises embrace smartphones, the demand for more-ruggedized versions that can last longer will grow. Already, vendors are moving to meet this demand.
For example, Motorola Solutions debuted the ES4000 enterprise digital assistant in June. The device is designed to enable mobile workers to execute business functions on a more hardened device. Last week, Motorola, on the consumer handset side of its business, introduced its second ruggedized smartphone based on the Android operating system, called Defy. The device will run on T-Mobile USA’s network and feature a 3.7-inch touchscreen that is water and scratch resistant. In August, the vendor introduced the Motorola i1 with Sprint.
Meanwhile, competitor Intermec introduced the CS40, a ruggedized device that looks like a consumer smartphone. The device will be available in the fourth quarter. The CS40 is a quad-band handset for voice calls and supports HSPA for data transfers up to 7.2 Mbps.
Despite the higher cost of ruggedized devices, there is a clear demand for them, Krebs said. His research indicates that sales of rugged handheld mobile computers exploded in 2009, with the market increasing by 30% or more in certain segments.
Meanwhile, prices are falling because competition in the space has become intense. As a result, expect many players to begin offering device “suites” — such as the one Motorola created this year (see related story) — that offer a range of ruggedness for different market segments. This would give enterprises the opportunity to reduce purchase costs by tailoring device choices and features.
Another thing that will be interesting to watch is the dynamic between the enterprise and consumer divisions of Motorola. The businesses are going to split from each other, with enterprise and public safety in one business unit and consumer devices in another. We’ve seen the company’s consumer division begin to offer more ruggedized devices. Will that encroach on the Motorola Solutions business.
What do you think? Tell us in the comment box below.