While Windows Mobile is facing challenges in the consumer market, there is still one area where it is completely dominant â€“ industrial rugged devices. Fedex plans to roll out up to 100,000 of Motorola Inc.’s new MC9500 rugged mobile handhelds in the next two to three years, for use by its Fedex couriers and workers in package warehouses.
The MC9500 will offer features Fedex some unique features, including the ability to swap out radios to work with different wireless carriers as needed, or the ability to swap out four different keypads, depending on use, so that the keypad can offer more numeric or more alphabetic functions as needed, Fedex representatives said. FedEx currently uses a custom-made device from Motorola, commonly referred to as the PowerPad.
"This is a high-end device, and has everything but the kitchen sink," said Matthew Berardi, managing director of field technology for FedEx Ground.
The MC9500 comes in four versions, priced from $2,495 to $3,295.
Berardi said the GPS will be valuable for tracking vehicles and drivers, offering even better real-time package tracking for customers. And the MC9500’s ability to work on faster 3.5G networks — including HSDPA and EVDO Rev. A — and greater efficiencies with scanning and data capture could allow for faster deliveries.
The device will also offer improve functionality for customers, such as an accelerometer in the MC9500 that allows a delivery driver to hold the device in any direction to capture a signature.
The MC9500 should perform well in the market, said David Krebs, a wireless analyst at VDC Research in Natick, Mass. He said part of the reason is that it builds on the success of the Motorola MC9000, which is the industry’s best-selling rugged handheld, with 1.5 million units shipped. The new MC9500 is lighter and more ergonomic, and will have power management features that are unique in the market. (The device turns off when it’s placed face down, for example.)
Growth in rugged device industry is robust, despite the sour economy, he said. Krebs estimated that 300 million workers globally will be equipped with rugged devices by 2012, more than double current levels.
Motorola currently has about 40% of the total market for rugged handhelds; Intermec follows with less than 20%; and Psion and LXE each have less than 10%.
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