When formulating a strategy for device selection I normally start with the user roles. For example:
- Sales People
- Service Staff
- IT personnel
What will each user group do with the device?
You might find a 1:1 match between use cases and users but normally there is some cross over, so it's important to understand what will be done with the devices. Here's some examples:
- Click through work flows
- Create content or enter lots of text
- Scan goods with a bar code or RFID
- Capture a customer's signature
- View large documents
- Take photographs of problems
- Search on the Internet for information
- Use mapping or Geo location services
Where and when will they use the device?
Of course the environment may vary within a user group. This might be the time when you determine sub-groups with slightly different needs. Thinking about the following use profiles may help you determine battery life, or IP rating requirements.
- In and around the city
- In rural areas
- In a vehicle or forklift
- In wet areas, in the desert, in high temperatures
- With chemicals or explosives
- Occasional phone calls
- All day data entry
What are the needs of the software?
You may have covered this stuff when evaluating the use cases, however its good to cross check and consider any technical requirements that you will have for the devices:
- Particular operating system or version
- Browser that supports HTML5
- Anti Virus
- Offline Database
- Storage capacity
- CPU type
- Connectivity (Bluetooth, serial, usb)
What are the device requirements?
- Screen Size
- Input Method
- Battery Life
- Ruggedized or not
Non Functional Requirements
- Vendors agreements
- Supportability of the devices
- Repairability / replaceability
- Staging and building the device SOE
- Security and IT policies
Now that you have a complete picture of the requirements you can factor in specific brands, models, and manufacturers. Around this point consideration is often given to whether a consumer device or an enterprise device is most appropriate. Remember you can always develop a policy or approval process that enables different devices to be chosen for different criteria. Here are some quick thoughts:
What are the pros and cons of enterprise and consumer devices?
- Enterprise device model life is much longer than consumer devices
- Enterprise devices have stable well tested components and operating system
- Enterprise devices tend to have better support
- Consumer devices initial purchase price is cheaper than enterprise devices
- Consumer devices tend to be better cared for than ruggedised enterprise devices
- Consumer devices have the latest technology (e.g. camera, CPU, OS features)
So certainly evaluate the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO). If possible consider the devices as part of your overall mobility solution and use a similar time frame for the cost calculation. E.g. if your ROI is over 5 years what will the device cost over this time frame? Will additional up-front costs be offset over time with better support and stability? As usual I'm in favour of understanding the requirements and making an informed decision. For some use cases and scenarios a ruggedised enterprise device will make the most sense and for many other applications a consumer device will work just fine.