Supporting Windows Mobile 6.5: Why it is still important.

Many folks are very excited about the growth of iPads, Android tablets and smart phones for their Maximo mobile strategy. Field users obviously love the large screen and great interfact. But, as noted in a previous post, there may be a few drawbacks, such as scanning capabilities. For serious enterprise asset management implementations, a mix is very important. Obviously, you would not use a hammer to turn a screw, so the right tool for the job is very important. And if one of those tools is missing, or may be removed from the tool crib, there is every reason to be concerned.

Microsoft has recently announced their latest mobile embedded framework. The latest operating system for handhelds, Windows Embedded 8, as it stands now, will provide a full featured operating system, with a new set of APIs, full device encryption and a “modern intuitive, multi-touch app experience”, which will make using tablets even easier to use.

Yes, once again, the Field worker may appear to be getting most of the love.
Here’s the big drawback.

No Physical Keyboard.

That’s right: No support of physical keyboards. Only on screen keyboard support, which hurts right in the old 10-key. I think several veteran inventory workers just visibly shuttered. Oh, and that user out there that takes meter readings all day just turned a little green, too.

Martin Cooper, Father of the mobile phone

Martin Cooper, Father of the mobile phone

Many of us have taken in stride the on screen keyboards that let you see what you are typing. The idea of “touch typing” is disappearing, especially if you cannot feel the keys as you type.  So, the result is stopping, looking at what you are typing, and resuming your work. These few seconds really can add up. If you haven’t been in the warehouse when a seasoned cycle count worker is kicking out their job, then think about the person at the bank, or accountant that is using 10-key. They fly through those digits without nary a glance. And they are all the speedier for it. Imagine if they stopped and looked at every key before entering it into the system, and you get an idea of how bad an idea of is is to eliminate support.

Now, there is no reason to gather the pitchforks quite yet. Microsoft has said they will support Mobile 6.5 until at least 2020. So all of those commercial handheld units with scanners, including you folks in the Oil and Gas industry that require I-Safe devices for your calibration equipment have about 6 years to make sure Microsoft understands how important physical keyboard support is to your bottom line.

Or, perhaps a new technology will come out in that time, so that this is just a “cry wolf” situation. Since the days of Martin Cooper’s first cell phone call, technology does march on (Or we’d still be using “Brick” phones). I just hope that technology conforms to improve the end user experience, and not the opposite.

Kat Pullen is a Convergence Specialist at DataSplice, LLC, a mobile computing company founded in 2001 to deliver handheld technology to Maximo users in the field. While DataSplice Mobile supports iPad, Android and Windows 8.1, the majority of clients are still very happy with Windows Mobile 6.5. DataSplice is committed to supporting a full range of devices, both mobile and desktop, because you shouldn’t have to compromise.