Monday, August 30, 2010

Apple Stores and Motorola No More

In December of 2007 I wrote a blog article questioning why Apple was using the Motorola MC50 handheld computers and Microsoft Mobile operating systems in their stores rather than their own devices and operating systems.  Every time I popped into an Apple store for the next couple of years I would see the same thing.  However, last month I noted that all the Apple sales associates were carrying the Apple iTouch with a sleeve that appeared to have an integrated barcode reader.

I interpreted this development to be a measure of progress that Apple has made toward supporting enterprise requirements.  Early on, Apple would not use their own solutions for enterprise class POS and retail applications but now in 2010 they do.

The iTouch was using an integrated barcode reader which is a good step toward field data collection.  It seems reasonable to assume it could also integrate with RFID and any number of additional Bluetooth enabled data capture accessories.

I wonder if there would be a large enough market for a ruggedized iPhone?  It would not work well with field workers that wear gloves, but for many service technicians working primarily indoors it might be fine.  There are a lot of service technicians from companies like Konica Minolta that work indoors and are implementing mobile field services solutions. 

Here is a description of the Konica Minolta solution.  Jobs are raised in the SAP system, and this information is automatically passed to ClickSchedule via the existing interface. ClickSchedule (from an SAP mobility partner) then allocates the most suitable individual to fix or service the product based upon the engineers' skill sets, location and availability. This information is then seamlessly passed to the field engineer via rugged mobile devices which the engineers use again to update progress.

Wouldn't it be interesting if Apple developed a ruggedized and industrial grade device running iOS for this segment of the market?  Would this work or do you see more limitations with the iOS that would prevent this from being a reasonable alternative?

Kevin Benedict, SAP Mentor, SAP Top Contributor, Mobile and M2M Industry Analyst
Phone +1 208-991-4410
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Full Disclosure: I am an independent mobility consultant, mobility analyst, writer and Web 2.0 marketing professional. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.