Windows CE & Windows Embedded Handheld – popular operating systems in 90’s – will soon see a withdrawal of software support from their manufacturer, Microsoft. Support withdrawal for Windows Handled from 2021 & for Windows CE 6.5 is predictable as the operating systems did not evolve and customers are upgrading to latest mobile technologies. Also, these operating systems use legacy technologies that could not meet current customer expectations/needs. Over time, Microsoft could not match the development speed of iOS & Android with that of Windows CE and lost the battle in the mobile OS market. While many rugged devices still have years left in them, lack of support from Microsoft and the technology ecosystem will make them increasingly difficult and expensive to maintain. Security is a prime issue for devices with older operating systems, which may have expired root certificates and no modern SHA2 support.
When exactly is Microsoft ending the support for Windows CE & Windows Handheld devices?
- For Windows Embedded CE 6.0 – June 10, 2018 will be end of life
- For Windows Embedded 8.1 Handheld – June 9, 2019 will be end of life
- For Windows Embedded Handheld 6.5 – January 14, 2020 will be end of life
So, enterprises using barcode scanners and mobile computers that work on Windows CE & Embedded shall take necessary steps to upgrade their devices for smoother operations.
Multi Platform Support
Some rugged devices such as Zebra MC 3200 support multiple operating systems and allow enterprises to make the best use of existing devices. Costs from switching to Android will be comparatively lower as there are no device changes. However, this strategy is only useful in the short run as these devices support older versions of Android and may not support the latest releases.
Going Back to Your Mobility Strategy
Mobile Opportunities are profound in this digital era. Make the best use of it, or you lose in the competitive market. While some enterprises are upgrading mobile technologies, some are planning for enterprise wide mobility. We need to understand what our current goal is? How do we plan to do it better? Which activities do mobile devices need to support?
Mobile Strategy shall cover all aspects & details of mobility from the form factor to EMM solutions to Budget & ROI for the strategy to be coherent. As it is with other things, mobile strategy flourishes over time and helps enterprises meet unique business requirements.
Selecting an OS that evolves over time
Technology is changing every day. So are the customer’s needs & expectations. Since the start of Windows CE, mobile technologies have changed completely. Thanks to Steve Jobs & his vision. iOS & Android – the two currently popular operating system softwares – support features such as Artificial Intelligence, Chatbots, Augmented Reality, VR, etc. Out of these two popular OS, Android is evolving in the enterprise market with rugged device manufacturers such as Zebra & Honeywell extrapolating the future of Windows OS and offering mobile devices & solutions with Android as an alternative. Rugged devices, well-known for their long shelf life, operate up to three times longer than their consumer counterparts. Unlike older devices, current ones are sleek and light-weight. According to a VDC Research report, Android OS share grew from 24% to 37% of all rugged handheld devices from 2015 to 2016, while Windows Embedded Handheld 6.5X/Windows Mobile fell from 49% to 39% during that time.
Businesses reviewing their options to migrate to new hardware with a new OS shall select an OS that is highly customizable & is trending among enterprises and offers powerful enterprise security features. iOS is costly and onerous to customize. Android offers the best of enterprise features coupled with options to customize OS as per business needs. Android Enterprise allows IT teams to take control of apps and data effortlessly.
Application Development – Buy or Build?
The line of business applications used on Windows CE or Mobile won’t work on Android devices. So, you need to either build apps from scratch or buy from mobile vendors. Whatever the option you choose, establish your requirements and improve the app functionality to leverage the latest technological developments.
Buying Off the shelf apps helps users quickly go to the market and save tons of money on design, development, and maintenance, but vendors restrict platforms and lack flexibility and comprehensive solution offering.
Building apps help companies develop tailor-made custom apps but takes enormous amounts of time and resources to build 20+apps. Native application development frameworks are best to use for work-heavy tasks but take big chunks of development time. However, Visual application builders shorten application development time but do not support native features such as offline storage.
For Visual application Building, Capriza is a potential platform to alleviate many of the build issues. On the other hand, Ionic and Xamarin are the best tools in the market for native & hybrid application development.
Choose your application development process. To build native or web-based? Balancing the app’s performance requirements with cost and internal resources can help you determine the best approach, including off the shelf, terminal wrapping, cross-platform or native development. If you’re using the app to scan thousands of packages daily or perform other CPU-intensive functions, a native environment is typically best.
Our recommendation: Research the solution providers with a comprehensive strategy towards Enterprise Mobility.
Selecting your Device
Windows CE & Embedded Handheld were mainly implemented in rugged devices for harsh usage environments in enterprise warehouse and supply chain departments. These departments sometimes lack access to connectivity, involve extreme temperatures and so on. Based on previous experiences, list out the features that your team needs in the new device and research on the devices. These device features include but not limited to instant documentation of anything, walkie-talkie facilities in case of network loss, waterproof capabilities and barcodes scanning in extreme conditions. Compare the devices from multiple vendors & select device that fits your business needs. Most trusted & reputed vendors for rugged devices in the market are Zebra & Honeywell. They also offer their App Stores to expand device capabilities by integrating the devices with mobile applications developed by their partners.
Pilot Test & Improve
Once the initial development is over, run a pilot test to identify potential issues early. Review them and improve the application development and integrations with the feedback received. Repeat the process several times before proceeding to the live environment.
Training & Full Scale Deployment
Before implementing full-scale deployment, familiarize your end users with device & applications they need to start using in the coming days. This will help enterprises to avoid operational hindrances and ensure smoother business processes.