When the iPad was first introduced, there was a lot of speculation around what its role would be in the enterprise. It’s undoubtedly proven itself as a coveted and effective device for the C-suite, but the question still looms in other areas of the business — like Utilities. Some companies have deployed it for such applications, others are researching it, and some are of the opinion that a consumer-grade device would never work in their operation.

What’s The iPad’s Role?
The iPad is useful for storefront, front office, sales, and other applications where the device isn’t likely to be dropped, jostled, mishandled, used in inclement or dusty environments, or operated with gloves.

Out in the field, in warehouses, distribution centers, utilities, manufacturing, resource exploration and mining, and any other challenging environments, a more rugged computer should be a serious consideration.  We know Utilities are trying to use iPad and we are hearing different degrees of success.  However, rugged laptops and tablets can’t be overlooked compared to an iPad when placed in fleet trucks and used in the field.  The iPad simply isn’t designed to be treated roughly. Even when placed in an Otterbox.

When Rugged Is Required
How do you determine when you need something more durable than an iPad? The first consideration is TCO, and downtime and replacement costs significantly impact TCO. If the iPad breaks, how many times are you willing to buy a new one? And what isn’t being done while that device is down?

Indeed, downtime in the field is one TCO consideration that is commonly overlooked. Companies are always conscious of initial acquisition costs, and sometimes even replacement costs — but often forget to factor in the loss of productivity that occurs if a device breaks in the field. There’s a study conducted by VDC Research that’s considered to be a valuable TCO guide. According to that study, the average failure rate for rugged large form factor devices [tablets and notebooks] was 4.6% compared to 16.6% for nonrugged large form factor devices. Further, they note lost productivity as a leading contributor to TCO. On average, mobile workers lost 50 to 80 minutes of productivity when their mobile device failed, and productivity loss represents as much as 41% of a mobile device’s TCO.

Why Does Rugged Cost More?
There’s no doubt that one of the most appealing attributes for companies considering the iPad for business is its lower sticker price versus a rugged tablet. The first thing to understand is that the sticker price can be deceiving. If you analyze no deeper than the purchase price of an iPad compared to a rugged tablet, the iPad looks like a good deal. But when you look at TCO, the initial savings that come from deploying a consumer device for an application that’s better suited for a rugged device will not only be lost, but the cost of the non-rugged device will actually be higher.

To deliver on an enterprise-grade device requires ruggedness, a full Windows OS, Intel processing power, long-life batteries, and accessories.  Enterprise-grade devices have a product life cycle of three to five years with support far beyond that, backward and forward compatibility for accessories, business-level support, and user-replaceable batteries.  These may cost you more up front but save you money over time.

Both iPads and Rugged Tablets/Computers have their place.  We encourage our clients to look at the strengths and challenges based on your needs before spending your money.

Please contact us to help evaluate the best path for your business.