The ruggedised tablet is a niche market by design.
But representatives from companies selling such devices — hardened and weather proofed — say that while selling the technology requires a certain amount of expertise, it all depends on who your clients are, and what you’re doing for them already.
“Any reseller can add a ruggedised tablet to their offerings,” says Melissa Woolley, an account manager with ComputerCare NZ. “It is all about being customer focused and offering what’s best for your clients. If a company has software they develop to work with these devices why not add it as an offering?”
Resellers already working in this market tend to either be larger tier-1 organisations with broad service portfolios and clientele, or resellers working with SMBs which have specific logistics or transportation requirements. While it is still a niche line-of-business, at least one source says there is increased demand from customers switching from consumer grade devices.
“We are getting more and more demand from customers that have been using consumer tablets, but need a more robust business solution,” says Andrew Charlesworth, writing to Reseller News on behalf of Comworth, the distributor for Panasonics rugged devices. “It is not so much about the size of the customer, but what type of business are they in and the importance of rugged technology in the success of their business. So we have customers using the technology from small two or three people businesses through to large corporates and government departments like the Auckland Council.”
Comworth in mid-March announced the debut of the Panasonic Toughpad FZ-G1, a 128GB, 10.1-inch rugged tablet running Windows 8 Pro, with a battery-life of eight hours.
Charlesworth says Panasonic’s introduction of “semi-rugged and business-rugged products” in the last few years has seen “the available target market broaden”.
“For resellers the opportunity is to take advantage of the upward trend in rugged mobility solutions,” he says.
Naturally, the value resellers bring to a customer is not in the device, but the services built around the device. This is where SATO, a global data collection systems manufacturer and integrator, sees rugged tablets play in their offerings.
“We don’t only offer the device, but also the standardisation and incorporatisation around service contracts that sits around the device,” says Kerry Langley, SATO’s sales and marketing manager in New Zealand.
Langley’s company, which uses rugged tablets from Motion in customer solutions, works in warehousing and transport logistics for larger New Zealand companies.
“We typically will see an organisation that will have one or two hundred units, like a trucking fleet or a courier company,” she says. “Once the client is automated, the most important thing is to have a service around it, by which we mean we swap out devices, keep them going, that sort of offering.”
Perhaps more important to managing a rugged device fleet is having the expertise to integrate it with back office applications.
“You have to really have good knowledge,” says Langley. “Running SAP in the warehouse, how you port SAP’s application to that device, it’s not simple. And if you do it wrong, you can bring a business to its knees.”
ComputerCare, a Hawkes Bay regional IT services provider focusing on SMEs, resells several ruggedised mobile offerings, including Panasonic. According to ComputerCare’s Woolley, 'expertise' lies in measuring client requirements against basic features.
“It is extremely important to understand the client’s needs and the importance they place on each feature of a device,” says Woolley. “Looking at IP ratings, durability, military standards, ROI, security features, software options, expansion capabilities and warranties is a good start when analysing competing brands in this space.”
Woolley seems to agree with Comworth’s Charlesworth in seeing rugged devices in more than the traditional verticals.
“This product would be a part of the ‘big picture’ in an organisation, from sending staff out in trucks to completing line work, to employees within the food industry,” Woolley says. “Clients, particularly those within industrial or agricultural industries are of course natural fits for these devices. But it is important not to limit yourself to these markets and ensure the possibilities are marketed to all customers.”