Industry 4.0 – the confluence of cyber-physical systems, the Internet of Things and Cloud Computing is upon us. Workers are utilizing increasingly advanced mobile technology platforms as the “fourth industrial revolution” unfolds. Today, much of the global population has access to a mobile device. According to the 2015-2020 Global Mobile Workforce Forecast by Strategy Analytics, “the global mobile workforce is set to increase from 1.32 billion in 2014, accounting for 37.4% of the global workforce, to 1.75 billion in 2020, accounting for 42% of the global workforce” .
To harness workforce mobility fully, enterprises need to assess their mobility requirements and redefine their strategies. Following the massive adoption of enterprise-grade mobile devices and wearables for the workplace, devices that have been deployed for over a decade are fast reaching their end-of-life (EOL) and new options are emerging. A critical deadline looms – and that is the life expectancy of core OS of certain devices.
Enterprise Mobile OS – At the crossroads
To achieve greater productivity, efficiency and accuracy in their operations, organizations need to determine their mobile operating system (OS), app migration and device strategies.
As workforce mobility is on the rise, a major shift is occurring in the mobile OS landscape.
Enterprises are at a crossroads where they will have to decide what OS they want when refreshing their fleets of mobile devices. Over the last decade, the most popular and widely deployed OS for enterprise mobile devices have been Microsoft’s Windows CE and Windows Embedded Handheld (WEH) 6.5, and Microsoft will end mainstream support for these embedded OS by 2020. In addition, migrating to the next generation platform will require significant lead time to ensure smooth migration without disruptions to operations, as Microsoft will not offer backward compatibility for its earlier mobile OS .
It is more critical than ever for decision-makers to make a choice that will shape the way their organizations will operate in the next three to five years. They could stay with Windows, migrate to Android, or look to Apple and its iOS. But whichever they choose, the new generation OS has to be flexible, intuitive and adaptable.
At this turning point, a relatively new player has clearly made in-roads in the enterprise space. According to IDC, Google’s Android OS is gaining ground, dominating the smartphone OS market with an 87.6% share . Currently, there are over 74 enterprise Android devices available from 22 manufacturers and that includes an additional 40 products that have come to market within the past year. Having just shipped Zebra’s millionth Android-based mobile enterprise device recently, it is clear that the market is witnessing a steady growth in Android-based enterprise devices. While every OS has its unique strengths and weaknesses – the rising prominence of the Android OS can be attributed to factors such as its openness, flexibility, compatibility with Microsoft and ability to offer the kind of control IT managers demand.
Be it purchasing a fresh fleet of enterprise mobile devices or refreshing an old one, the right choice of OS can yield multitude benefits, from operational gains, to lower IT administration costs and improved employee satisfaction. Despite this, many customers have been slow to transition for various reasons – from the perceived complexity of app migration to a general lack of understanding around the cost of maintaining aged devices.
Instead of dealing with uncertainty later rather than sooner, organizations should take time to understand the choices ahead of them. Preparation and planning are critical to reduce risk and ensure a smooth transition of business critical apps. In view of this, organizations need to start evaluating their options today.
Choosing the Right OS for Your Business
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. Besides compiling a list of must-have features, it may be helpful to also identify the issues currently faced by employees. 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:
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. With Mobility Extensions (Mx) from Zebra, enterprises are able to transform Android from a consumer OS to a true enterprise-class OS with a series of additional features and options that improve security and device management.
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. When a critical upgrade or patch is required, “closed” systems like Zebra’s Mobility DNA allows administrators to push mandatory and non-customizable updates to Android devices.
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.
In this respect, Zebra’s Mobility DNA management tools make it simple to implement maximum control and security, along with toolkits to make integrating apps and mobile devices fast, easy and problem-free. The ability to centrally and remotely manage your devices simplifies upgrades and troubleshooting, easing the burden on your IT teams.
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. If you opt for an OS that requires a licensing fee, consider a device provider that includes that cost in the total cost of ownership (TCO). Lastly, standardizing an OS across devices can eliminate much of the complexities of running a fleet of mobile devices, further reducing TCO.
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. In contrast, specialist training on a less-than-friendly interface can take time, and can only be effective to a limited extent – especially if users are not comfortable with the way a device works.
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 increase in age of devices also means an increase in failure rate, which then translates into significantly higher costs of support and ownership.
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. The potential for disruptions to operations and customer service can be substantial, given that the business-critical function of enterprise devices. 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, as Windows prepares to end its support for existing Windows mobile OS devices. 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.
Wayne Harper, Senior Technical Director, Zebra Technologies APAC