It’s the end of an era: after an almost 20-year run, the Windows Mobile operating system will reach end of service in 2020. For the thousands of businesses that depend on it for enterprise operations, this means an inevitable transition in the road ahead -- with no clearly defined map. With legacy applications that aren’t compatible with other operating systems, IT managers are tasked with developing an OS migration strategy that will ensure the most seamless, cost-effective transition possible.
This could be very good news for some companies: the end of Windows Mobile signals the perfect opportunity to reevaluate your mobile needs, address any holes or deficiencies in your current mobile strategy, and pursue an OS migration strategy that will ensure you end up with the hardware that will best serve your long-term goals.
The End of Another Life
As if organizations needed another motivating factor to migrate legacy applications to a modern operating system -- the SHA1 certificate will reach end of life in 2016. SHA1 (Secure Hashtag Algorithm) is a security certificate that verifies the safety of all data passing through the browser. Organizations with SHA1 certificates will need to upgrade to SHA2 by the end of this year. Failure to migrate to SHA-2 will prevent browsers from displaying content properly; end-users could receive security warnings or experience browser crashes, resulting in significant interruptions of transactions and business-critical activities.
Windows Mobile 6.5 is the only version of the Windows Mobile operating system that supports SHA2. Companies that use older versions of Windows Mobile and want to maintain security compliance should consider the possibility of not just updating to WM6.5, but migrating to a new operating system entirely. Given that the Windows Mobile operating system is coming to end of life in 2020 anyway, simply updating to 6.5 is a temporary solution at best. Now is the time for these organizations to weigh the pros and cons of other modern operating systems, such as iOS or Android.
What Could Possibly Go Wrong?
Implementing an organization-wide OS shift is not an activity you want to jump into blindly. A lot could go wrong if you’re not careful -- but don’t panic. There are two things you can do to ensure a smooth transition:
- Find a service provider who can do more than just sell you hardware. Look for one who understands both your business needs and the current technology landscape. You should expect a clear, unbiased and objective recommendation of the technology that will serve you best. If they don’t answer your questions, or simply don’t communicate in a manner that makes sense to you, call someone who will.
- Make sure you leave room for future growth. This is not a short-term investment; keep your long-term needs in mind and make sure to look for technology that will support your growth over the coming five to 10 years.
A large nationwide enterprise reached out to us after several fitful starts at OS migration. They had chosen to go with iOS devices and outsourced their coding to a company that didn’t work with them to discuss their long-term well-being. By the time they voiced their concerns to us, they had made a pretty significant investment in native iOS applications and were already frustrated and stuck with capabilities they couldn’t improve, reuse or integrate.
When they initially conducted their research, their primary focus was on finding a quick, simple and cost-effective solution. As they discovered, however, sometimes what looks like a direct route can turn out to be a little more complicated. When they fully realized the limitations of the technology’s ability to grow with them, they had to determine whether they should pursue a completely different technology direction, or if anything they had already purchased could be re-engineered for cross-platform use.
After we thoroughly explored their concerns and options, we were able to offer perspective from our vantage at the intersection of both business and technology and write code that addressed their particular needs. We helped transition their legacy applications to a modern system without requiring them to completely scrap their newly purchased hardware or recode all of their critical business applications.
A Brief Look at Android and iOS
You’re probably familiar with the major mobile operating systems on the market. But looking at them from a consumer angle is quite different than pinning the success of your enterprise on them. It’s important to understand the differences.
What we have seen so far from clients is an initial preference for iOS that is built on some pretty significant misconceptions. First and foremost, iOS is supported only by Apple and is made specifically for consumers. Android, on the other hand, is supported by device manufacturers and developers that tailor applications specifically to enterprise operations.
As you can see from the table below, when it comes to mobile enterprise applications and devices, Android clearly has a lot to offer.
|Rugged device offerings||Less expensive|
|Devices designed to support enterprise applications||Consumer-centric, so it has a wider audience. Great for BYOD|
|Enterprise-ready devices limit applications and are more secure||Single vendor approach to hardware limits potential for threats from malicious developers|
|More hardware options||Add-ons for RFID and barcode capabilities|
|More tooling support for development|
|Larger community of developers|
|Hardware capabilities eliminate need for device add-ons|
|Less theft of enterprise-specific devices|
|No added downside of repeated software updates|
Enterprise Android - A Secure Solution
What you’ve heard is true: Android consumer devices are more vulnerable to attack. Unlike iOS’s closed community of developers, Android is supported by an open source community. Since anyone can develop Android applications, there is nothing to prevent malicious developers from creating applications that contain malware.
But let’s take a closer look. While iOS is supported only by Apple’s consumer devices, Android’s open environment enables multiple hardware manufacturers to support the Android operating system. Manufacturers like Zebra produce enterprise-centered devices for Android that come locked, with limited applications, empowering companies to control what gets installed on their devices. For this reason, Android devices made for enterprise are actually more secure than iOS’s consumer devices.
Other Migration Paths
- Both iOS and Android
Special coding can give you the option to run applications on both. This is an option to consider if your company has large populations of existing Android or iOS devices, or operates in a BYOD environment. The downside is that, unless you have in-house software developers with the talent and capabilities to do this kind of coding for you, it can get expensive.
- Windows 8.1 and 10
In our opinion, there is a lot of uncertainty with these still. We have been performing our own investigations of Windows IoT, and so far we have found that it simply can’t support our customers’ application needs. We are open to discussing this option with our clients, but our general opinion is that it needs more time to mature.
- Multiple Solutions
Depending on your use case and existing talent and resources, it is possible that the best way to maintain your operations and leave room for growth is to integrate multiple technologies.
What’s Your Plan?
Let’s talk about your strategy. As you can see, OS migration is not as clear-cut as choosing an operating system and moving on. There are a lot of moving parts that you need to account for as you evaluate your requirements, resources, long-term goals, and limiting factors -- as well as the technology offerings available on the market. Chances are, you will discover new details at every turn.
Here are a few additional questions to consider:
- Do you have any hidden resources among your existing development talent? Perhaps this is a chance to put your untapped mobile proficiency to work.
- What is the condition of your existing hardware and software? How much do you have invested in WM platform? Can you keep what you have and add to it, or do you have to start all over?
- What kind of hardware will you need? The OS you choose could depend on the hardware features you rely on. If your operations require rugged hardware that can function in wet, dusty, or harsh conditions, you’ll need to consider an OS that is supported by rugged devices.
We Can Help With Your OS Migration Strategy
If you have not already begun to map your strategy, now is the time. Don’t underestimate the amount of time it’s going to take -- act now and give yourself enough runway to make it happen. If you have any questions, or would like to discuss your OS migration strategy options, please don’t hesitate to contact us.