Magazine Article | November 28, 2012

Mobile Printing: Looking Beyond Legacy Windows

Source: Field Technologies Magazine

By Dave Crist, sr. VP of sales and mktg., Brother Mobile Solutions,

If you’re evaluating Android or iOS devices, there are important issues regarding mobile printing you should consider.

The debate between rugged and consumergrade computers has been playing out this year in the field mobility market with high intensity. Experts have weighed in on the ROI, security, durability, reliability, and TCO (total cost of ownership) of legacy Windows rugged devices in side-by-side comparisons with their Apple and Android counterparts. In an effort to help purchasing and IT executives navigate the landscape in this new era of mobility options, mobile device manufacturers and analysts have provided guidance based on their expertise in particular verticals. While the debate has been focused primarily at the computer level, the mobile printing industry must respond to the same challenges. So what about mobile printing?

The OS Debate Is Over
Regardless of how much rugged device and peripherals manufacturers debate the issue, enterprises are moving toward individual or associate empowerment, and BYOD (bring your own device) is gaining steam. iOS and Android mobile devices are being deployed in field environments, period, and mobile printer manufacturers must support the trend.

But the days of depending solely on Microsoft to anticipate customer needs and resolve the printer driver/compatibility issues have gone — and mobile printing can no longer afford to be tied to one operating system. A new generation of mobile printers with Android, iOS, and new Windows compatibility features are coming online now, and great apps to support end user needs are being built.

The Importance Of Next-Gen Mobile Printing Support
Those of us on the front lines know that providing smooth, seamless, next-gen mobile printer integration requires a greater degree of collaboration than legacy Windows systems because — and a lot of folks may not even realize this — printer drivers don't come standard with the new Android and iOS operating systems. But we do see an increasing number of integrators and VARs in the mobile printing industry stepping up to fill the knowledge gap with great app development and a more consultative project approach. If you're an IT manager in charge of an iOS or Android deployment for your field organization, be prepared to discuss desired print outcomes and engage with the integration team more deeply to avoid the hard knocks inherent in any new technology deployment.

While we're still observing the debate as to what degree consumer-grade devices will be integrated into field workforces, we know they are already finding their way into not just Tier 1 organizations, but SMB and even small regional workforces. As companies continue to expand on the technologies they choose to deploy, the mobile printing industry must keep up. There's no longer room to maintain a traditionalist view of mobility — companies have demanded we expand that view to include the new operating systems.

Those of us in the mobile printing industry must strike a challenging balance between focus and nimbleness in this rapidly changing environment. The OS evolution has put us in a very different position. Enterprise decision makers are continuously assessing their options and trying very hard to make well-informed decisions amid all of this change. Device and peripherals players are already adopting a more consultative role in support of the enterprise device decisions — and operations, purchasing, and IT execs should leverage manufacturers' experience to provide the mobile worker the best application experience possible.

Today's market requires that we approach mobile printing solutions differently. Because we're in the business of uncovering new applications and developing new products for the mobile workforce market, manufacturers are a unique and underutilized decision-making resource for enterprise execs who find themselves in the middle of some fastmoving and very challenging environments. The manufacturers obviously all have their biases, but they've also all attended the "school of hard knocks," able to provide meaningful insight and experience to these increasingly tough solve-it situations.