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Future Proof Your Rugged Tablet PC Investment

In these days of swiftly evolving electronics technology, prudent business shoppers are looking to protect their investment in mobile devices and other equipment by maximizing longevity without sacrificing performance as time goes on.

rugged tablet pc enterprise mobilityThere are several practical steps you can take to ensure any rugged tablet PC you buy will be ready for change when the time comes. Squeezing just an additional six months out of a mobile computer – keeping it four years rather than 3-1/2 – can significantly improve your total cost of ownership. So it’s worth the effort up front to make sure your rugged tablets are capable of accepting upgrades or conversions that can make them even more versatile and increase their lifespan.

The key, of course, is to plan ahead. You may not be able to predict exactly what you’ll need in a couple of years, but selecting equipment that offers the most flexibility – the ability to expand as needed -- will support those future needs more effectively. And certainly more cost-effectively.

Here are some key factors that determine how useful a rugged tablet PC will be down the road:

  • Operating systems and software. A Microsoft-based mobile operating system ensures you’ll have seamless interface with other software and management systems. Look for rugged tablets that can also support terminal emulation and browser-based applications, ones that give you full control over critical settings to prevent tampering. Avoid proprietary systems that don’t mesh with other applications or that require the vendor to develop drivers or make software changes.
  • Scanning capability. Your rugged tablet PC should easily read 1D and 2D barcodes and offer imaging ability at a variety of distances. It should be able to read and write RFID tags. Even if you don’t use RFID now, your tablet should allow adding that later. Scan ranges and use of RFID are increasing, so don’t put yourself in a bind here.
  • Bluetooth connectivity. Peripherals are going wireless, so you need to be prepared, not tethered. This includes wireless printing and barcode scanning.
  • Network compatibility. Your rugged tablet PC should be 802.11 a/b/g compatible and should interface smoothly with your internal security protocols. As noted above, avoid proprietary products and protocols that limit your options, especially when it comes to security.
  • Voice/speech support. We’ll be seeing greater use of hands-free and even “eyes-free” productivity improvements as voice/speech systems become more prevalent. Your rugged tablets will need to easily integrate with these systems, including headsets both wired and wireless.

What’s on the horizon? Many of the same types of innovations we’re seeing for personal use of mobile devices, but configured especially for workplace environments. Things like new voice- and speech-activated applications, broader ability to deliver voice and video as well as text to mobile computing devices, refined barcoding and increasing use of RFID.  

It’s these internal computing and connectivity capabilities that will govern the future value of your rugged tablets, not their exterior toughness. That may seem counter-intuitive, but studies show it’s technological obsolescence that produces early retirement for a rugged tablet PC.

Forewarned is forearmed, as the old saying goes. It may be a cliché, but it’s still good advice when it comes to future-proofing your rugged tablet PC investment. 

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