Will Windows Fall Out of Favor As Rugged OEM’s Favorite OS?

There are ample reports predicting the fall of Windows as the popular choice for rugged devices in the next 10-15 years. But what is the reason for this shift? Without doubt, one of the leading factors that has led to this prediction is Microsoft’s announcement to phase out support for Windows Embedded Operating Systems starting 2018 to 2020. With rugged devices being the largest users of Windows-based OS, many customers are now facing the problem of shifting to an alternate OS to future-proof their mobile investment.

As per Microsoft’s announcement, by mid-June, 2018, support for Windows Embedded CE 6.0 and 8.1 Handheld will be stopped, followed by Windows Embedded Handheld 6.5 in 2020. The revelation is prompting businesses to start planning for an upgrade strategy that won’t face similar problems in the future.

Arguably, Android seems to be the best bet as a replacement OS that is highly flexible and capable of supporting future devices. Not only is it easy to develop on, the widespread acceptance of Android ensures that users get the familiar smartphone experience, making the transition easier.

Though many top mobile device manufacturers, from smartphones to rugged devices and handhelds have already started shifting their OS to Android, many manufacturing and supply chain enterprises are still using Windows CE and Windows Mobile-based ruggedized devices.

This can be mainly attributed to the pragmatic nature of these enterprises. Manufacturing focused organizations are more interested in the jobs they require the ruggedized devices to accomplish rather than the mobile OS the devices run on. The devices are considered to be a necessary tool to complete a narrow scope of repetitive functions instead of computers with operating systems. This is one of the main reasons why it is a tough sell to convince these industries to move to a modern OS.

Manufacturers also have strong preferences for legacy Windows-focused investments made on rugged devices. Large developer base and ease of use are two of the biggest factors in favor of Windows. But with the Windows platform itself shutting down support for many of its legacy operating systems, many businesses will be looking at security and functionality issues.

With the introduction of Windows 10 IoT, Microsoft is attempting to entice the new generation of device manufacturers to opt for their platform. But it remains to be seen whether manufacturers will prefer them over Android-based devices. Even companies with legacy Windows applications will have to re-architect those solutions, so the transition costs of switching to Android are not necessarily any higher.

Enterprises need to rethink about their next mobile strategy. Their main requirements include a modern UI with the ability to customize and ensure business continuity, without sacrificing on robustness and security. While Windows still is restricted in these features, these are the key capabilities of Android. But at the same time, Android will have to work hard to overcome its reputation as a fragmented OS.

Whether Windows continues to hold a strong position in the rugged market or not remains to be seen. But the current predictions show that Android would take over the ruggedized device market in the coming years.

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