Sunday, November 27, 2011

Motorola's RhoElements is this Strategy a Trend?

In October of 2011, Motorola Solutions (MSI), the segment of Motorola that split off to focus on business solutions, acquired RhoMobile.   Rhomobile is a software company that develops mobile business and government solutions, and MEAPs (mobile enterprise application platforms).  The day that Motorola announced this acquisition, they also announced a new solution from RhoMobile called RhoElements, a hybrid HTML5 platform for Windows Mobile, Windows CE and Android based Motorola devices.

This is an interesting strategy for a traditional manufacturer of Windows Mobile and Windows CE based barcode scanners, ruggedized smartphones, handheld and tablet computers.  It appears that MSI is no longer willing to wait for Microsoft based OS answers and upgrade paths.  

Over the past few years, Microsoft has severely damaged the ruggedized hardware market through neglect and a refusal to provide an upgrade path for their Windows Mobile and Windows CE mobile operating systems.  This has forced the ruggedized hardware manufacturers to try to compete and sell expensive mobile hardware, with outdated operating systems, against a tsunami of innovative, inexpensive, new consumer-oriented smartphones and tablets.  The ruggedized handheld manufacturers have seen their markets shrink as a result.

This Microsoft engineered disadvantage is motivating the manufacturers of industrial grade mobile devices to look for alternative solutions and upgrade paths.  It appears that MSI has acquired theirs with RhoMobile.  Rather than wait for Microsoft, MSI released RhoElement which appears to enable HTML5 based mobile applications to run on the old Windows CE and Windows Mobile browsers as this excerpt from DevProConnect states, "RhoElements is designed to allow businesses to quickly and cost-effectively develop and deploy web-based applications on existing Motorola Windows Embedded Handheld (formerly known as Windows Mobile) and Windows Embedded Compact (Win-CE) mobile computers as well as Motorola's recently announced ET1 Android-based enterprise tablet."

MSI bought a MEAP with RhoMobile that they hope to make a "universal" standard.  RhoElement already supports Windows Mobile 6.5 and Android, and they have promised to soon support all of the other popular OSs.

Let's now take a closer look at some of the motivations that MSI has given for the acquisition of RhoMobile:
  • We (MSI and RhoMobile) have a shared focus on the enterprise with a strong commitment to partners.
  • MSI will provide the scale, resources, and industry knowledge to accelerate universal adoption of Rho technology.
  • MSI is strategically committed to the Rhomobile suite of products.
  • MSI is committed to supporting the Rhomobile community and continuing the open source heritage of Rhodes.
My analysis is that given the lack of answers and no Microsoft provided upgrade path, MSI is strategically changing paths.  They have seen the negative impact on their business caused by a dependence on Microsoft and have sought and found a non-operating system dependent path to innovation which is a RhoElement,  HTML5 hybrid approach to enterprise mobility solutions.

It will be very interesting to see if others like Intermec, PSION, Honeywell, Trimble and others also decide to acquire a non-Microsoft path.

Kevin Benedict, Independent Mobile Industry Analyst, Consultant and 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.