Ruggedized handhelds are a class of mobile devices that are designed to run mission critical applications while withstanding the harsh environments. Several OEM like Motorola/Symbol, Intermec, Psion Teklogix, Honeywell have been building ruggedized handhelds for several years now. Most of these devices are based on Micrsoft Windows CE and Windows Mobile operating systems. Recent whitepaper from VDC Research says that Microsoft has 87% share in this market. All these OEMs together shipped around 2.3 million devices in 2009, which is projected to reach 4.3 million by 2014. Besides that there already are around 12 million ruggedized devices in use.
Since Windows Phone 7 has been announced there was a growing concern among OEMs regarding future support from Microsoft for its existing Windows CE (latest version 6.0) and Windows Mobile (latest version 6.5) platforms. Note that Windows Phone 7 is a very different platform with almost no similarity with the CE and Windows Mobile and is targeted towards consumers and to lure back iPhone users :).
Enterprises and Consumers have different needs and both are important. Microsoft has started a new program Windows Embedded Handheld to protect the existing enterprise investments and to continue to releasing newer mobile platforms with minimum porting requirements.
Microsoft’s commitment to the future of enteprise mobile devices will be a welcome news for OEMs, System Integrators, ISVs and Enterprise customers.