Texas is home to two of the biggest names in rugged computing and earlier this year they came together when Xplore Technologies acquired Motion Computing. It's good news for field service companies, says Ian Davies, Country Manager, Northern Europe, for Motion, in this interview with Field Service News Editor, Sharon Clancy.
SC: Where do the two product ranges sit in the rugged PC sector?
ID: Both companies sit at the top of the rugged PC sector. Xplore is the number one vendor in the ultra-rugged PC sector, while Motion claims second place in the rugged tablet space. Motion has a more mature and stronger presence outside the USA, with 50% of sales to European customers. The majority of Xplore's customers (80%) are in North America.
This give us plenty of opportunity to grow our customer base. The Motion brand will be retained, with the product being called Motion by Xplore. Xplore has said it sees the acquisition of Motion as consistent with its goal to establish the best and broadest line of rugged tablets for the enterprise market and a one-stop shop for rugged devices.
As part of Xplore Technologies, Motion is in a stronger, more secure position financially.
Customers are naturally nervous about how long availability and support for existing products will continue.
SC: Will there be any rationalisation of the product ranges?
ID: In the long-term there might be some, but for the immediate future, no. In my working life, I've experienced several acquisitions and appreciate customers are naturally nervous about how long availability and support for existing products will continue. They have invested in devices that have a lifespan of at least five years, sometimes seven or even longer, and they're being used for mission-critical tasks. They want reassurance.
There's actually very little overlap in the product range because of the different sectors the two brands are focused on. Xplore is very active in large-scale deployments in sensitive sectors where security is a paramount: energy, public safety, telecoms and cables and the military. Motion has a broader customer base, active in utilities, healthcare, retail, construction and the emergency services.
There is some overlap is on the technology front, but we make no apologies for that: customers benefit from our using best-in-class components. Earlier this year, our processor supplier Intel, named Xplore as its Mobile Platform Partner of 2015.
SC: Both Xplore and Motion have adopted the indirect channel sales route. Will that continue?
ID: Yes. There should be no integration issues as far as channel partners are concerned.
Our partners have different strengths: some are hardware specialist, others are independent software vendors. What they have in common is a commitment to the customer. At this end of the market, buyers are interested ensuring tablets have the functionality for their workflows. It's why we work closely with IT departments and our channel partners: you are not just selling a piece of hardware but everything that goes with that. It will need customising for the workflow and configured for integration with back-office systems, for example.
Never underestimate the value of a great partner.
SC: Motion has stayed loyal to Microsoft Windows, even when the clamour for Google's Android OS was at its highest. Why was that?
ID: Continuity is important to us and our customers. We have been advocates of Windows because our enterprise customers prefer a back-office compatible OS and they want their mobile workers to be able to switch smoothly from the office and into the vehicle and field via their tablet PC, including for those advanced tasks that are proving a challenge on other mobile devices.
Android OS is the technology roadmap for the Motion range.
However, there is now a big market for Android OS and it is on the technology roadmap for the Motion range.There is customer demand in some vertical industries with unique application and workflow needs, and we acknowledge that. Android OS gives them with greater flexibility and a wider access to more apps. Xplore's Ranger X tablet already ships with Android OS.
SC: Finally, will the trend for consumer tablets in field service impact on future sales for the group?
ID: I believe that field service companies recognise the value in enterprise-grade rugged tablets and understand Total-cost-of-ownership. There's little demand from enterprises or their workers for consumer devices. Companies understand the risks on mission-critical operations of breaking the tablet and losing data and the affect device reliability and that field workers who don't trust the device, won't use it as intended, will leave it in the vehicle, adding or retrieving data when they return, all of which has a direct affect on productivity.
One often overlooked aspect of the consumer v rugged debate is the critical role supporting peripherals accessories and additional modules play smoothing workflows.
Both Motion and Xplore understand that the ease of charging, mounting, carrying and storing tablets is key for user acceptance and that enterprises may need a variety of data capture and communications modules to maximise productivity - none of which is usually available on a consumer tablet.
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