Choosing the right OS for your business

Wayne Harper, senior technical director, Zebra Technologies

By Wayne Harper

When choosing a mobile OS, it is important to consider the needs of IT, finance, and those who will be using the devices in the field. Understanding both the pros and cons of an existing solution will help prioritize your overall feature list. Here are some tips to help kick-start the decision-making process.

Security

What are the risks and implications of a potential security breach stemming from your mobility deployment? Securing a mobility deployment is a multi-faceted effort: from Mobile Device Management (MDM) tools selection and configuration; to policy definition, enforcement and training; and ultimately, to the capabilities of the device you select.

App Procurement and OS Updates

Think about how you would like to get applications on the device – whether your IT team would want to rely on the user downloading the app or would they rather have control to push the application out? The former can be accomplished through a public app store such as Apple’s App Store, Google’s Play Store or through a private app store like Zebra’s App Gallery where you control which applications are available for your devices through blacklists and whitelists.

Manageability

Consider whether devices lighten or add more load onto IT. Setting up devices can be extremely taxing on administrators, especially when many units require deployment of identical configurations. Instead of setting up each device individually, ensure that the OS you select supports Mobile Device Management (MDM) tools that help you effectively stage multiple devices at one time.

Total Cost of Ownership

The true costs of mobility go far beyond the device’s initial purchase price. In evaluating the cost of maintaining the OS for the life of the device, factor in the potential costs of worker downtime, accelerated replacement cycles, additional accessories and support needed for a successful implementation.

Another aspect to think about is licensing fees. Some vendors traditionally require per-seat licensing fees for its products. As a result, costs can quickly escalate if you are deploying multiple devices. In addition, an extra level of maintenance is needed to ensure that the licenses are current. Lastly, standardizing an OS across devices can eliminate much of the complexities of running a fleet of mobile devices, further reducing TCO.

User Friendliness

The familiarity of an OS determines the speed at which users learn the functions of the devices they are using. Mainstream OS (such as Android) have a clear benefit in this aspect, being similar to what is already being used daily on consumer devices. As a result, devices on mainstream OS require less training on the basics, which leads to efficiency gains.

Time to Look at the Options

The lack of certainty on the future of OS has seen organizations postpone their upgrade decisions. As a result, the average age of the installed base of mobile devices has increased. According to a VDC whitepaper, while devices four years or older took up 36% of the installed base of rugged handheld devices in 2010, this figure increased to 42% of the same in 2014.

The same study also found, that while annual return rates for rugged handheld devices during the first year of operation is approximately 1%, the rate rises to 8% for devices in their fourth year of operation. Any device failure leads to a loss in productivity of up to 65 minutes. In fact, every percentage point increase in mobile device failure leads to a 5% increase in TCO.

Moreover, it has increasingly been evident that customer satisfaction with legacy enterprise mobility applications is waning. Besides a dated look and feel, legacy solutions do not take full advantage of the capabilities afforded by modern technology.

The shift towards a new OS will be an eventual reality for many organizations. The right choice of platforms can determine how quickly your organization responds to challenges within the fourth industrial revolution. New technologies make assets more durable and resilient, while data and analytics are transforming how they are maintained. Now is the time to refresh your mobility strategy.

The author is senior technical director, Zebra Technologies APAC

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