Window shopping or terminal overload

Many users of portable data terminals may be all too quickly leaping onto the Windows bandwagon, argues Ray Marsh (pictured) of CipherLab. Many may be unnecessarily paying a hefty Microsoft premium when their businesses will fail to reap the true benefits of feature rich functionality.

The variety and functionality of data capture terminals has increased greatly over the last few years and collecting data at source has become more and more the norm. The clear business benefits of basing decisions on up to the minute accurate data, being able to shorten lead times, reduce stock holding and improve transaction speeds are well documented.

The benefits of hand held mobile data collection should, first and foremost, improve business' efficiency. Many businesses have lost sight of this key prerequisite and are trading profitability for cutting edge technology and in many cases needlessly.

Many organisations are jumping in to buy technologically advanced portable data capture terminals with Windows capability when their business operation simply doesnt warrant either the feature-rich capability of these units or the escalating costs associated with them.

Businesses are spending huge amounts without being fully familiar with the features they are buying into, preferring to assume that they are buying the newest and most advanced equipment available. However, buyers can find that Windows compatibility issues can all too soon become apparent as well as the ongoing costs and inconveniences associated with future upgrades to ensure continuing compatibility.

These elements are not an issue when they are considered, planned and taken into account prior to a purchase and are calculated as part of an overall unit cost. Many businesses opting for instance, for CipherLabs 9500 series can reap the technological benefits of this advanced Windows model but other organizations, such a feature-rich unit may be totally unnecessary and inappropriate. Resellers should routinely question customers as to the model suitability and challenge the reasons behind terminal selection.

Businesses wanting, for example, to use internet-based browser services or requiring intranet activity will reap genuine benefits from a terminal with Windows capability. It goes without saying that a Microsoft Windows operating system does provide additional power and flexibility.

However, a delivery driver sending back information to the main host does not need such functionality. In the same way, a Windows function would be completely superfluous to requirements for merchandisers simply returning information about a taken order. It is worth highlighting that where CipherLab terminals are concerned, the 8500 model which runs on a wi-fi network or GPRS/GSM capability, is able to talk to Windows Server applications in terminal emulation mode.

Those businesses unnecessarily opting for an advanced terminal could also find themselves low on power. In fact, standard proprietary operating systems can actually provide up to four times more power as the Windows option usurps the processing power of the unit and reduces the available memory.

This is not a case against an advanced terminal with Windows access. CipherLab models span all capabilities to suit a range of requirements. I would however urge buyers to take a long look at their requirements and assess their specific needs. The difference can potentially run into costs of several thousands especially where companies have multiple orders exceeding 20 units.

Ray Marsh is sales and marketing director for Cipherlab. The company is a global leader in the manufacture of CCD and linear imaging hand held bar code scanners and portable data capture terminals.

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