HLG Products & Functions Technical & Industry Thoughts

Windows versus Android – Which is the Better Approach?

Last week, I talked about our decision to leverage Windows 10 as our initial tablet operating system offering. We made this decision after internal research across Windows 10, Android and iOS options – and the impact to our clients and partners.

Each of these operating systems (O/S) is somewhat foreign in the traditional AIT (Automated Identification Technology) data collection market that we serve. The AIT market had its early history with proprietary O/S options. In the late 1990’s, the market made the move to Windows Mobile – where it has solidly remained until recently.

Windows Mobile is reaching end-of-life in 2019. However, many of the valuable Microsoft utilities to leverage this environment on a mobile device got seriously impacted with the official end-of-life for Windows Mobile Device Center (WMDC) – Active Sync with Vista. While Windows Mobile 6.5 and WMDC are still broadly in use, this is not an architecture you want to consider for any new solution deployments where possible.

As a result of the Windows Mobile shift, HL Group and other mobile solution providers started searching for the next generation platform for mobile applications. This search isn’t just about the O/S though. Some other considerations include the proliferation of network access and smart mobile devices – phones & tablets. You layer this with the increased requirement we have for security and the next solution platform decision becomes critical.

While it seems the simple choice would be Android (while iOS is an option, this has not been a path with major industrial handheld manufacturers like Honeywell & Zebra), the effort to move your mobile solution from WinMobile to an Android environment requires a complete redevelopment of your application. This hurdle has resulted in delays by solution providers in their migration efforts.

The third option which we have seen less of was the move to Windows 10 for mobile devices. Because this wasn’t a direction for either Honeywell or Zebra and most industrial mobile handheld manufacturers, fewer solution providers choose this path. However, the tablet side of the mobile device market has been much more welcoming of Windows 10.

Does this make it wrong to use Windows 10 instead of Android? Like most things in life, this choice still comes down to your situation or story.

HL Group choice a Windows 10 approach for our initial mobilePLUS migration for two primary reasons:

  1. Since we use an application approach that doesn’t require network connectivity (everything is on the mobile device), Windows 10 provided us the strongest platform option for our solution – from both effort and functionality perspectives. The tablet manufacturers agreed. There is now a huge selection of tablets in a variety of configurations (size, scanning, ruggedness, etc.) from companies like Getac, Panasonic, MobileDemand and even Zebra. Using this option also enabled us to offer our solution with the ability to execute with a Windows laptop and separate scanning option.
  2. The additional value a Windows 10 platform brought to our clients was the conformity to their existing security policies and procedures. By allowing the use of existing domain credentials, we eliminated the bulk of the effort and cost for deployment and support of our mobile solution – with no additional operational risk to our clients.

Based on our decision, does this make Windows 10 a better choice for your mobile requirements? Not necessarily, but it fit our situation and story – for now. I say this because as I type, an Android version of mobilePLUS is in development and will be available in 3Q18! This decision was driven by some additional requirements that developed early in the year. Once again – our story and situation.

Now we have the new challenge of keeping a multi-platform in sync (interface & functionality). Not to mention managing the added burden of sharing common components like mobilePLUS/Network (connectivity) and mobilePLUS/Host (data/list management).

But that’s the life of a solution provider in today’s rapidly changing market. While it may cause a little groaning from the technical team, they are up to the challenge!

So, is Windows or Android better? From an application execution approach, they are equal in their ability to deliver and it comes down to individual uses and preference. However, from a security angle, we still prefer Windows 10 with its ability to leverage existing resources, procedures and policies and the resulting savings and reduced risk this represents.

I know I didn’t talk much about iOS (which is a little odd since I live in a house that owns 3 Apple laptops/3 iPads/3 iPhones and I have a spouse who is a former 10-year Apple employee). For our solutions and clients, it doesn’t fit our situation or needs. For now! The way that this market is constantly changing and evolving, anything is possible.

What is your preference for mobile solutions?



Wes Haubein is the President of HL Group, Inc., a premier provider of mobile asset inventory management and warehouse solutions. He writes regularly about management, solution integration and technology.