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Rethinking the Ruggedized Mobile Device

by Antoine Cadot-Wood

November 2, 2011

I've been listening in on our Mobile Strategies for SAP Customers seminar this week, and a point that comes up repeatedly with mobile service applications is the need for ruggedized devices.

You've seen the pictures - tablets that look like they took their design cues from the Hummer, with padding, hard keyboards, and waterproofing. The extra armor on these devices is supposed to protect them from shock, liquids, and all manner of other issues that may come up on a job site.

These devices, however, come with a hefty price tag - often running into the thousands of dollars. A consumer device, by contrast, often sells for half, a quarter, or even less of that price (witness the Kindle Fire).

The question then, is whether such ruggedized devices are worth the investment. IBM's Adolf Allesch, who is presenting several sessions at the seminar, told the audience that in his experience, service technicians treat a consumer device like a consumer device - carefully. A device that can survive a four-foot drop, by contrast, is handled as such.

Even when the device breaks, a consumer tablet is often so much less expensive than a ruggedized device that replacing it a couple times might still less expensive than buying a specially made tablet. Allesch told a story about going to a warehouse where a consumer tablet was strapped to a forklift with velcro. "What if it falls off?" he asked the operator. The answer amounted to "No big deal!"

And if you are paying $200 for a cheap consumer tablet versus $2000 for a ruggedized version, why not indeed?

What do you think? Have any of you had experience with ruggedized devices? Are they worth the price?

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