PORTLAND, Ore.—Touchscreen tablets for the enterprise were unveiled by Motorola Solutions Inc., maker of push-to-talk radios and ruggedized wireless terminals for enterprises as diverse as first responders, warehouse managers and point-of-sale clerks.
The new Enterprise Tablet (ET1) joins a family of wireless terminals that allow fire-fighters to see around corners, buyers to visualize their entire supply chain, and salesmen to assess their inventory, display product features, and make sales by scanning barcodes and credit cards.
"Our tablet puts the familiarity and popularity of the consumer-class iPad into in a nearly indestructible device using WiFi to provide situational awareness to enterprises like retailers, health care, hospitality, factory floor, and other users within the four walls of a business," said Suhas Uliyar, chief solutions architect in Motorola Solutions' Mobile Computing division. "Future wireless wide-area-network versions will also target service organizations, direct store delivery and other field-mobility personnel."
The ET1 includes all the "cool factor" features of an iPad—from a touchscreen user-interface to an app-for-that OS—but packed in a ruggedized enclosure with a removable bezel that can be customized with the logos of each enterprise customer. Made to operate continuously, 24/7, the ET1 has extra-thick Corning Gorilla-Glass to survive repeated drops without damage. A secure software system allows the ET1 to be shared among personnel who can instantly log-in between shifts to re-provision it with the particular apps for which they are authorized. A separate charging station allows hot-swapping of battery packs with up to 15 minutes to make the switch without memory loss.
Motorola's Enterprise Tablet (ET1) will only be sold to businesses who will supply the device to sales personnel for on-the-spot wireless pre-purchase information, demos, and other point-of-sale functions including credit-card purchases.
The ET1 runs what Motorola Solutions (Schaumburg, Ill.), calls a "hardened" secure version of the Android operating system, and comes with a suite of built-in apps already familiar to its Windows-based handheld users, which enterprises can personalize for their businesses, including assisted selling, mobile point of sale, manager electronic dashboards, planogram management, and Item locator.
Motorola also announced an new HTML5 app development environment called RhoElements that allows enterprise customers to develop new apps that will run on the ET1 under Android or on Motorola's other wireless devices running the Windows Embedded Handheld operating system (formerly known as Windows Mobile) or the Windows Embedded Compact OS.
A full palette of accessories enable the ET1 to address nearly any enterprise application including Bluetooth-connected bar-code scanners, mobile-payment readers, mobile printers and a variety of hand-straps, belt-holsters, and man-purses. Available with Motorola's Service-from-the-Start comprehensive warranty coverage, the ET1 will be available in time for Christmas in the fourth quarter of 2011.
This is an interesting idea except for two major factors: 1) most companies will not only have to invest in the hardware, but also in developing or re-developing their corporate software for the new interface. This takes time and money. 2) touch screens don't work with gloves, so using this to replace other ruggedized hardware in certain jobs or regions where people often wear gloves is going to make things more annoying.
I mean, I'd love to see this adopted by someone like Best Buy for their sales staff, inventory personnel and other staff. But I hardly see this in an industrial or outdoor environment (especially up here in Canada where gloves are necessity for outdoor work for half the year or more). Neat idea, but it's going to take guts for a VP to give the go ahead to adopt something like this on a large scale.
Nice to see a rugged tablet that is truly ready for the workplace -- and not only for the workplace. I think many consumers will also be interested in a nearly unbreakable tablet, and I totally get why MOT is following the usual CE cycle here, getting it out in time for the Christmas season.
This all makes sense and gives some confidence that MOT might survive, until I got to the last sentence: "...the ET1 will be available in time for Christmas in the fourth quarter of 2011"
Why would an enterprise-targeted tablet be tied to the consumer holiday buying season? Is my boss going to buy me one and put it under the tree? Very curious...
Tablet is more or less a generic device like a computer. Other than hardening the cases to minimize the damage through physical impact, what is the greatest features that you would demand? How is the feature so special that it may not be available in a mass-market tablet (aka consumer grade)? I am very interested in knowing more about the "hardened" secure version of Android.