Magazine Article | June 26, 2012

Tablet Selection: What Would Savvy Susie Do?

Source: Field Technologies Magazine

By Matt Miller, president, MobileDemand,

Selecting the right tablet is essential to your mobile initiative’s success.

A popular TV commercial is Verizon Wireless’ Susie’s Lemonade series where an enterprising 10-year-old grows her lemonade stand into a beverage powerhouse, fueled by her initiative, confidence, and use of mobile tablet technology. The message in the Susie commercials is spot on: By enabling high productivity, tablets can help businesses leap ahead of the competition. However, these commercials, combined with the widespread excitement of media tablets, may lead businesses to believe an overly simplistic view that one tablet can fit all enterprise needs.

In the commercial, Susie chooses trucks to deliver her lemonade to retailers. She doesn’t choose a Prius hybrid car. A Prius could work for some applications — for example, to deliver Susie’s special blend in small quantities to a handful of retailers. Clearly the commercial delivery truck is the right choice for broader distribution.

The same holds true when an enterprise considers mobile tablets to facilitate productivity gains in their mobile operations. Media-style tablets have a place in certain business applications, rugged tablets have a place in others. A clear understanding of the real workflow that needs to be done leads to choosing the right tool for the job.

When is that “right tool for the job” the rugged tablet? It’s when the value of the benefits of the rugged tablets and their unique capability provides a higher productivity payoff. As the value of your business application increases, the value of the right tool for the job also increases. Here’s an illustrative list of business applications that warrant rugged tablets:

  • Food and beverage wholesalers who sell more than 75 SKUs (stock keeping units) and are incented to make stretch goals, sell-in new products, and avoid costly stock outs
  • Field service people maintaining high-priced appliances and equipment
  • Telecom and utility field technicians who deliver services where uptime is paramount
  • Truck drivers expected to collect real-time proof-of-delivery data for customers
  • Law enforcement officers on motorcycles in extreme outdoor environments There are some common demands/requirements of these applications, which include:
  • Frequently changing temperature environments
  • A screen readable in harsh sunlight conditions
  • Long-life, hot-swappable batteries to last a full shift
  • Bar code scanners and a numeric keypad for quick data entry
  • Hectic schedule causing users to be under pressure
  • Users frequently a long distance away from the company office


A common mistake businesses make is that they only look at initial hardware acquisition costs. A TCO (total cost of ownership) study by VDC indicates that one of the highest costs of a mobile operation is the loss of productivity due to downtime and failure rates of the mobile technology. The study confirms that nonrugged devices have significantly higher failure rates than rugged devices and over time cost considerably more. Even if a business can acquire nonrugged systems at no cost, the long-term downtime costs still dramatically outweigh long-term costs of buying rugged tablets.

Picking The Right Tablet Isn’t Just About Ruggedness
But, evaluating the right type of tablet is about more than just ruggedness. It’s about compatibility and leveraging existing IT systems and enterprise applications, where many IT organizations prefer Microsoft Windows environments. Of course, not all applications require rugged Windows-based devices. For these applications, media tablets would be the right fit:

  • Retail associates needing to fulfill a brand image
  • Hospitality employees with customer-facing applications
  • White-collar professionals in an office needing quick application access
  • Health professional interacting with patients

Media tablets tend to be used as a secondary, nonmission- critical device. Compromises are made to deploy multiple devices, as neither device has the full range of capabilities to get the entire job done.

Today the cost-effective option for an enterprise can be a rugged tablet that fits both roles. That’s a no-compromise approach that a business person as savvy as Susie would take. A rugged tablet provides all of the “media” device capability combined with the productivity features that meet comprehensive job workflow requirements in a hardened and robust tablet form factor. It’s clear that Susie truly wouldn’t compromise either. Having the right tool for the job makes all the difference in the world.