Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Best Channel Products 2011 - Handheld Computers

Remember handheld computers?  They are ruggedized, often black, and sometimes come with a pistol grip that people can use for specialized tasks.  Often they are used in situations where bar code scanning, RFID reading and other specialized tasks are needed in high volume.  Today it is easy to forget about this category of mobile devices because there are so many new and spectacular smartphones available.  However, smartphones cannot replace ruggedized handhelds in many different roles. 

I stopped a Home Depot employee in an orange apron last week and asked him about the handheld computer he was carrying.  My wife just kept right on walking for some reason.  He said they could nearly run the entire store from the handheld.  He showed me how he could check products in his store inventory and all the other Home Depot stores in the area from the device.

I read an article today in Business Solutions magazine called Best Channel Products 2011.  Business Solutions magazine surveyed VARs (value added resellers) to learn what they thought were the best channel products of 2011.  In the handheld computer category the VARs chose the Omnii XT10, ultra-rugged, modular handheld computer from Psion.  I looked up the Omnii to learn more and here is how they describe it, "It is targeted at demanding users, such as ports, airports, supply chain and logistics operations. It is designed to be almost completely re-configurable in the field.  It can be adapted for new technologies or even be re-purposed as customer needs change. The upgradeable and interchangeable modules are not only developed by Psion, but also by an expanding network of more than 200 developer partners around the world.

Let me highlight some differences between smartphones and ruggedized industrial grade handhelds.  Handheld computers like the Omnii XT10 can be taken apart and adapted for different purposes.  You can replace the bar code scanner, insert an RFID reader, change the keypad, etc.  If one component is broken, it can be repaired or replaced.  If your needs change, you can re-configure the handheld to meet your new requirements.  None of those features are available on today's popular smartphones.  If you break it, you just buy a new one.

I am a big fan of smartphones, however, it is still important for all of us in the enterprise mobility space to remember there are times when a specialized and ruggedized handheld computer may be the better fit for the job.

***Remember the Build vs. Buy: Mobile App Development - Webinar coming up next Wednesday, August 24th at 1:00 ON EDT,  Read more here...

Kevin Benedict, Independent Mobile and M2M Industry Analyst, SAP Mentor Volunteer
Follow me on Twitter @krbenedict
Full Disclosure: I am an independent mobility analyst, consultant and blogger. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.