Android Platform Now Dominates Industrial Mobile Computing, Device Manufacturers Say

Anindito Mukherjee/Bloomberg

The popularity of the Android platform with consumer mobile devices has spread to industrial mobile computing.

Although Zebra Technologies has “millions of devices out in the field that operate on a Windows [operating system],” the company has tilted toward Android, according to Mike Maris, senior director of transportation and logistics.

“The long-range road map with Windows was not well-defined,” he said. “So Zebra got on board with Android several years ago. That move was on the cutting edge at the time. It was a gamble for us, but now Android has become a dominant operating system in the mobile computing industry.”

One advantage that Android has over Windows is the ready availability of a larger array of third-party applications.

“Android has enabled application development to be done in a more streamlined manner,” said Michael Smola, director of enterprise mobility sales for Panasonic Corp., whose devices can run on Android or Windows.

“The industry today is definitely domin- ated by Android,” Smola said. “We didn’t see many application providers move quickly to the Windows platform. It was a much easier transition to Android.”

A similar view was expressed by Jason Ringgenberg, chief information officer at YRC Worldwide.

“Android’s market share in the consumer world is pushing more and more of the industrial market into Android,” he said.

The third-party software that the less-than-truckload carrier wanted to use was designed for Android.

“We decided to line up behind what we thought is going to be the industry standard,” Ringgenberg said.

One factor that has impeded the evolution of features in the industrial handheld market has been that “most companies do not change devices as often as the average consumer upgrades his or her phone,” said Sean Healy, senior vice president of strategic planning and engineering at FedEx Freight.

“However, the rules have changed,” Healy said. “More and more mobile development environments have branched out to take advantage of the consumer operating systems for app development.”

Android’s success with consumer devices also means that more workers already are familiar with the platform. This can make it easier for companies to introduce Android-based industrial handhelds to their drivers.

“Mobile computers more closely resemble the look and feel of consumer smartphones than they did five years ago,” said Justine Clark, transport and logistics marketing manager for Honeywell.

“Workers — particularly the younger generations entering the workforce — are so accustomed to using their phone for virtually all aspects of their lives, so it is important that our enterprise devices are intuitive, familiar and comfortable,” she said.

In Clark’s view, this is one reason that the Android operating system is “so quickly embraced by workers in the transportation and logistics space.”