Full mobile device flexibility and support
IT Reseller spoke with Andy McBain, Motorola Solutions Snr Regional Product Manager, about the Bring Your Own Device trend, how the expansion of the mobile device operating system market has given customers greater freedom of choice, and how Motorola has leveraged advantages from these kinds of developments to stay ahead of the field with recently launched mobile devices such as the TC55 and MC45, all backed-up by a compelling trade-in initiative.
The mobile device market has seen some major changes over the past three to four years. From an operating system perspective, Microsoft Windows Mobile had become the most commonly used operating system of choice, however other viable operating systems were starting to emerge during 2010 and 2011, with Apple establishing a credible alternative and initial murmurs about the new OS from Google, called Android. Because of this, and the lack of direction from Microsoft some Consumer mobile device vendors started to move away from Windows, which in some cases opened up the relationships they had with carriers. Those Carriers had pre-written applications looking for hardware, to allow the continuation of rollouts or expansions.
In addition to the developments in the operating system space, there were also changing requirements in terms of the form factor and functionality of the devices themselves.
The downturn in the economy was starting to influence the purchasing decisions made by some companies who were trying to fill a requirement for field mobility with a limited budget. "With this in mind, the 'bring your own device' (BYOD) model seemed like one effective way to save money," explained Motorola's Andy McBain. "The reasoning was that if your staff had smartphones for their personal use why not utilise them in the work environment too? And indeed in certain applications the BYOD model can make perfectly good sense. For example, if you have short-term seasonal staff that only works for a company for a month or two."
However, McBain added that consumer-grade devices can have a number of drawbacks in the B2B environment. "For example, they can break easily and the levels of security may not be as strong," he pointed out. "Another concern with regard to BYOD was that of liability. For example, if staff dropped their own smartphone whilst working the big question was 'who pays for it, the individual or the company?' That corporate liability issue became a bit of the battleground with some company managers saying 'why should I buy you a new smartphone just because you have broken it – it's your device'."
This scenario was a key driver behind the development of the Motorola ES400, as McBain explains. "With the launch of the Motorola ES400 in 2010, enterprise smartphone resellers and users quickly realised that here was a perfect fit for a B2B marketplace that was becoming increasingly interested in sourcing consumer-style devices that met a more rugged specification. The ES400 came at an attractive price point, it offered a more consumer-grade ergonomic than many of the other devices available at that time, it was thinner and less rugged looking while still meeting all the required sealing and drop specifications sought in the B2B space."
Opening up new markets and partnerships
With all these state-of-the-art benefits, the ES400 quickly became Motorola's fastest ramping product in Europe. "Indeed, we led the way internally within the Motorola business on sales of the ES400, outselling North America, and even Asia Pacific and Latin America," McBain pointed out. "We then built on that success, forging relationships with resellers who had by that time sold all their stocks of consumer Microsoft product. An additional advantage that came with these new relationships was that some resellers took us into the SME area of field service apps, which were in demand with smaller companies.
The ES400 was a three-year life-cycle product – three years in manufacture plus three years further support – and so as the device was coming to the end of its lifecycle Motorola looked at further technology changes that were taking place in the market in order to bring to market the very best suited new range of devices. "We knew that there was a move away from touch & key – a feature of the ES400 – to all touch," explained McBain. "Also, more and more customers wanted Android devices, whereas the ES400 was built on Windows Mobile 6.5.3 Professional. Indeed, around 70% of our ISPs now have Android based applications for field mobility and all the traditional verticals, whereas as recently as a year or two ago that wasn't the case."
Also highly ranked in the research Motorola conducted was a requirement for more battery life, the need for a dedicated barcode scanner , even better ergonomics and more software control than some of the consumer devices where the vendors would push out updates that could then cause applications to no longer work whilst still carrying out mission-critical tasks in the workplace. However, McBain pointed out that the number one issue was security and security updates. "One of the specific questions surrounding the issue of security was when someone left the company how could any corporate data be thoroughly and easily removed from the device?"
TC55 Touch Computer
Therefore, the birth of the Motorola TC55 Touch Computer came about from what Motorola had learned from the ES400, the changes in the market and what its application partners were developing. The TC55 marries rugged enterprise features with smartphone usability and form factor, providing the field service and field inspection workforce with reliable access to real-time data. "One of the major differences compared with the ES400 is that the TC55 is all-touch, rather than touch & key," said McBain. "This meets the needs of users of field mobility devices who want something that operates and feels like a consumer-grade product, while still maintaining all the features they expect from an enterprise device."
Another major benefit, according to McBain is the device's 4.3in high-resolution display screen based on cutting-edge HAST LCD technology. "This display consumes substantially less energy, which boosts the device's battery life," he said. "At 700 NITs, it has outstanding indoor luminance, and the screen's transflective technology actually leverages direct sunlight to improve its image clarity, making it ideal for outdoor viewing as well. Furthermore, the capacitive touch panel dynamically adjusts to thus enabling it to work with or without gloves, wet or dry and with your finger or a stylus."
McBain added that the TC55's tough Corning Gorilla Glass 2 screen also allows the user to operate the device even when wearing gloves – whether latex, standard leather even the thicker type of gloves often used in the warehouse environment – without any undue damage caused to the screen. The screen can also be used in wet weather, ensuring users can continue to do their job, capturing signatures and scanning boxes etc. without having to wait for more favourable weather conditions.
McBain also commented that the TC55's battery life is also longer than most competitor devices; normally being able to work a full one-and-a-half to two-day shift without a recharge. "With most consumer-grade smartphones, unless you lock them all down you can rarely achieve much more than a day's use without re-charging," he said. "And with couriers out on the road a lot of people these days don't want to fit car kits because of the rental penalties they could incur. The TC55 offers the largest battery in its class. Its battery is also removable, allowing easy swapping in the field."
In terms of other key features, the TC55 ensures your field workers can:
- Receive and complete work orders in real time.
- Access complete repair history.
- Access assistance – manuals, step-by-step maintenance routines and equipment experts.
- Scan parts and tools as they are used.
- Access cross-selling/up-selling information.
- Better plan routes and minimise mileage with GPS.
Taking on board Motorola partners' requirement for an Android operating system, the TC55 is built on Android 4.1.2 OS, which, together with the new built-in Mx features, allow the user to upgrade to an even more robust, enterprise-level operating backbone if required. Also, increased compatibility with existing applications and an additional layer of management and security enhancements enable greater control and enterprise functionality. Additionally, the TC55 produces powerful voice output based on dual front-facing speakers that, according to McBain, yield four times the volume of popular smartphones. Coupled with dual microphones with precision, noise-cancelling technology, the TC55 delivers a high level of clarity at both ends of the call, even in noisy environments.
MC45 mobile computer
Sitting alongside the growing demand for Android devices is a strong continuing demand for Windows-based solutions in some parts of the globe, as McBain explains. "As Motorola's market reach has spread increasingly into developing regions in Eastern Europe, Africa, Latin America and Asia Pacific – areas where users may be in their first or second entry into the world of mobile computing devices – we are aware that the very latest technology developments are not always required," he said. "For this reason, we have brought to market our MC45 compact rugged mobile device, which retains a Microsoft flavour and to some extent a similar ergonomic and appearance to the ES400."
The MC45 incorporates all the key features field mobility teams need to support a wide range of field service applications. "With all of the total cost of ownership (TCO) benefits of an enterprise-class product, the MC45 offers particularly good value without compromising performance," said McBain. "It is the natural extension to our Motorola's field mobility WAN portfolio and is the ideal device for a broad spectrum of organisations, including security, health and homecare, facilities management, small courier companies and local government."
The MC45's NFC configuration, with Advanced Near Field Communication (NFC) technology and HF-RFID capability, provides easy tap-and-go action for fast and automatic capture of data embedded in NFC tags. The technology supports location tracking, contact-less tag reading, access control, equipment verification, proof of presence and more. With easy touch-and-go action, users can automatically perform data transfer and are then ready to move on to their next task. The MC45 is built for life out in the field, able to handle drops, bumps, spills, dust, vibration and the thermal shock that often occurs as workers travel from a climate controlled vehicle to the outdoors. Motorola's 1D scan engine with Adaptive Scan technology makes scan-intensive tasks easy – a broad scanning range allows the easy capture of bar codes from near contact to as far as 15 ft./4.5 m away, even if they are dirty, damaged or poorly printed. 2D bar codes can also be captured through the MC45's integrated 3.2MP camera.
With the MC45, workers can count on dependable GPS access to real-time directions and geostamps that automatically capture information for applications – even in challenging urban areas, dense foliage or inside buildings. No matter where the workday takes your employees, 3.5G GSM HSDPA cellular keeps them connected to the business data they need to stay productive. Support for RhoMobile suite enables development of HTML5-based OS-agnostic applications substantially reducing application development time and cost – a single application can run on multiple devices with different operating systems.
So with the introduction of the MC45, Motorola ensures that users who prefer a Windows-based device get what they want, while also serving users looking for their third or fourth generation of technology with the TC55. Similarly, Motorola makes it possible for users to move from one level of device to another as quickly and cost-effectively as possible. This is where the Motorola Trade-In Offer initiative really comes into play, as McBain explains. "Our Trade-In programme offers customers the two main routes; if the customer's existing device has a screen 3 inches or upwards they are given a trade-in rebate based on the purchase of an MC45 or a TC55. So there are options depending on how advanced users are from a technology standpoint and which direction they wish to go in regard to their preferred operating system. For example, some users may wish to stay with Windows and see what is on offer with Microsoft's next generation of operating system, or move to Android."
Total Cost of Ownership
Another advantage Motorola offers its partners and their end customers is access to online Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) tools. In order to better determine the overall lifecycle costs associated with Motorola's B2B devices compared with more consumer-grade products, partners can log on to the TCO site and effectively build the price comparison for the customer. "For example, our partners can key in the purchase costs, any other bundled offerings required, and even determine whether there is a service plan available," said McBain. "Then – based on back-end calculations and taking into consideration things such as the 'soft cost' insurance packages associated with consumer devices –the TCO site produces typically between 6 to 8 page report, including graphs, reasoning why the consumer model isn't perhaps best over the lifetime of the device. Our partners can then print out the report and show it to the customer. Based on a three- or five-year service and support model, partners can then clearly outline the overall costs associated with a particular device."
"So, with our TC55 and MC45 mobile devices, we have set out to cater for different users' specific needs in terms of form factor, functionality, operating platform and more," concluded McBain. "We are confident that this high level of device flexibility, complemented by our Trade-In promotion and our TCO value-added cost comparison service, makes Motorola a compelling choice for field mobility professionals."