A massive transition is under way for businesses using rugged handheld devices such as scanners, as many of the devices are running legacy versions of Windows that are soon to be phased out.
Since there is no updated version of Windows for these types of devices—which are often used in settings such as warehouses—manufacturers and solution providers are turning to Android, according to Marco Nielsen, vice president of managed mobility services at Stratix, a Norcross, Ga.-based MSP.
"These are usually business-critical devices that are important for a company's revenue stream," Nielsen said. "But the platform has aged. ... Customers are now migrating over to Android."
Stratix recently commissioned VDC Research to look into the issue, and the findings were stark: More than 10 million devices are running Windows Embedded operating systems that are reaching the end of support, including security support, by January 2020.
Microsoft has not announced a new version of Windows as a successor, and so manufacturers such as Honeywell, Zebra, Panasonic and Bluebird have largely moved to producing Android handheld devices, Nielsen said.
"There's a huge wave of refreshes going on already around these devices," he said. However, plenty of businesses are taking a "wait-and-see" approach and extending the use of devices for as long as possible, VDC Research found.
"A lot of customers have hesitated to upgrade these, and now they're really needing to upgrade before they get into trouble," Nielsen said.
Apart from the expense and effort of switching to new devices, businesses also face challenges around migrating their key applications to new platforms. In some cases, businesses are running custom apps, written in-house or by a third party, Nielsen said.
"Some can be migrated over. Others will need to be rebuilt from scratch," he said.
On the plus side, bringing in new devices will ensure updated security and also offer bigger screens and added functionality, he said.
Solution providers that understand mobility have a major opportunity in helping customers to make the transition, according to Nielsen.
"I think it's huge. I think it's a large gap that we can all assist with. We can make sure these businesses keep on running—make sure there's no downtime, no angst, no security issues as well," he said. "The time has come. If you don't do it now, you're going to have even more pain later."