By Sarah Howland, Editor In Chief, Field Technologies magazine
In my February column, I discussed what I believe
are the most overused terms in mobility. One of
those terms was "purpose-built." Without specifics
to explain what purpose-built really means, the
term becomes just another platitude used in marketing
materials. While I stand behind my point that
the term purpose-built is often poorly qualified,
I received some feedback from rugged handheld
computing manufacturer Janam Technologies on
what the term can mean with specifics to back it up.
Here's what Janam had to say: You stated, "If it
wasn't built for a purpose, then why would it exist? Enough said." While this
would seem to dismiss purpose-built as a differentiator, it is instead an opportunity
to point out an important difference between mobile products that are
purpose-built and those that are built for a purpose.
In the purchase decision-making process, there are buying criteria that set
purpose-built technology apart from technology that "just exists" or was built
for a purpose. For example, smartphones and tablets have a purpose, but
they were not purpose-built for environments where only rugged devices will
survive. Along the same lines, if an enterprise needs to support operations
only within the four walls, a mobile computer with integrated GPS or WWAN
[wireless wide area network] technology may get the job done, but it does not
qualify as purpose-built and is therefore not likely to be the most cost-effective
Used properly, purpose-built means that the product was designed to meet
specific business requirements as defined by the customer and its mobile
application requirements. This means unnecessary features are unnecessary.
Purpose-built products provide users with the features needed to get the job
done and are not overengineered or overfeatured for the sake of trends (or
charging more money).
Consider this: For years, mobile computing companies have narrowed the
keypad area of gun-shaped mobile devices so that the plastics can double up
as a handheld brick format if the factory selects a different bottom housing
during manufacturing. That is NOT purpose-built. Sure, the products were
built for a purpose. The purpose, however, clearly wasn't to serve customer
needs or application requirements (as genuine purpose-built technology
does). It is instead to serve a purpose for the hardware vendor who gets two
platforms for the price of one. For a company that delivers products that are
purpose-built, the gulf separating purpose-built from built for a purpose is
about a lot more than semantics.
Press Mobility Providers For Specifics
I thought Janam's feedback was important to share to illustrate the point
that if a solutions provider does have the facts to back up its usage of the
term purpose-built, the adjective can indeed be useful. It's your right —
and duty — as a purchaser to make sure you're pressing your solutions
providers for the specifics and proof
behind any jargon they're using.