Time's Up: Windows Embedded Handheld 6.5 End of Life

time's up for windows: next steps for organizations running windows mobile and embedded software

January 14, 2020 is the official end of life date for Windows Embedded 6.5 operating systems. Here are next steps for organizations running Windows mobile.

 

How Does Windows Mobile End of Life Impact Me?

Microsoft issued an end of life for Windows Embedded Handheld 6.5 today.

Windows Embedded End of Life

Support for Windows Embedded Standard 7 ends October 13, 2020. If your enterprise devices still rely on Windows Embedded software, your technology is officially obsolete this year.

Does that put you in a horrible position? Not in every case. Should you develop an action plan for migrating to new hardware and software this year? Absolutely.

Four important reasons to migrate your mobility devices from Windows Embedded to Android OS include minimizing security vulnerabilities, reducing development costs, accelerating deployments, and increasing uptime and productivity.

Let's dig in to these first. Then, we'll talk about next steps for any devices in your organization that are still running Windows Embedded. If you're on Windows CE or an earlier edition, please contact us as soon as possible.

 

1. Minimize Security Vulnerabilities

When support ends for Windows desktop operating systems (such as Windows Vista or Windows 7), the first concern for IT departments is security. On an active operating system, Microsoft is regularly releasing security patches and updates. On an end of life system, security updates are no longer pushed to devices.  The same is true for Windows Embedded Handheld 6.5 and Embedded Version 7.

If physical devices can be remotely manipulated, so can the distribution centers, vehicles, and employees. Every day you wait to move to a secure operating system is a major security risk.  Hackers love to take advantage of security vulnerabilities. Perhaps the greatest threat to cybersecurity today is the fact that computers run phones, printers, and even building ventilation controls. There are few limits to the systematic damage a remote actor can cause.

 

2. Reduce Development Costs

Many organizations rely on proprietary programs and software. Now that Microsoft will no longer update their mobile operating systems, internally-built programs and systems are 80% more likely to fail. 

Custom development isn't cheap. If your internal programs are built and optimized for Android, expect to see significantly reduced development costs in the next ten years.

If you decide to remain on Windows Mobile or Windows Embedded for the time being, plan for emergency development costs and unplanned software issues that render your existing hardware useless.

Consider the many options available for converting applications from Windows Embedded to Android. Android also features an extensive library of apps that could serve as a fitting replacement. The resources for a switch to Android programs are extensive and will save development costs in the long run.

 

3. Accelerate Deployments 

When is the last time you took inventory of every device being used in every warehouse location? How involved is the process when it's time to refresh your scanners at scale?

Inventorying, configuring, testing, staging, and deploying thousands of new scanners across the entire organization is a massive undertaking. Deploying at this scale on an end of life operating system would be a costly mistake.

Migrating to Android OS allows for much faster deployments as your footprint grows. An all-inclusive Android platform, such as Mobility Edge from Honeywell, allows businesses to roll out new technology faster than ever.

 

4. Increase Device Uptime and Productivity

Devices running Windows Embedded will be more likely to fail now that support has ended. Consider a scenario when all thirty scanners at a regional distribution center stop scanning. How would that impact your business?

New devices with Android OS should greatly increase uptime, which has a positive effect on employee productivity. Fewer ticket requests for IT is always a welcome sign of healthy technology. Inversely, errors on Windows Embedded devices could run your ticket requests through the roof and keep your IT support team busy in all the wrong ways.

The Android user interface will feel familiar to many employees, as it closely resembles the feel and design of consumer-grade Android phones. Familiarity is a big plus. If your employees are comfortable with the operating system, they require less micromanagement. 

 

Next Steps for Organizations on Windows Mobile OS

Now that you have a list of reasons to migrate away from Windows Embedded 6.5 and/or Windows Embedded Standard 7, the next step is to develop an Android OS migration plan. Here are some important considerations for a transition away from Windows Embedded.

Take Inventory of All Devices - First, create an inventory list of every piece of equipment you use (including active and inactive devices). Device model names, manufacturer names, serial numbers, locations, use cases, current operating system, device age, and quantities of each are important metrics to have.

Identify and List Requirements for New Devices - Once you have an complete inventory list, identify the top three use cases of your mobile devices. You'll likely notice some trends with the types of devices you use most. The top three device types will have a mix of unique and overlapping use cases. Survey your end users about what they like and dislike about these devices. Maybe the touchscreens are too small. The range on a ring scanner might be annoyingly short. Any use case that still requires manual effort or threatens productivity should be noted. Consider the environment as well. Extreme temperatures in storage coolers and chemical storage present additional challenges for long-term device health.

Research Android-Ready Devices - Once you have a thorough requirements list for your future Android devices, it's time to research what's available today. Honeywell, Zebra, and Datalogic have entire product lines that run Android. The latest devices from Honeywell have guaranteed support through Android R, so your investment is protected for the next five to ten years. We have yet to see a similar promise from other manufacturers. It's also common to reach out to other IT teams internally about what devices they like to use. Don't rule out competitors either. What devices are your top competitors relying on? 

Request Quotes - You should be armed with enough information to start requesting quotes from device vendors. Prices on new hardware will seem high up front, but just remember that this is a long-term investment. The right investment today could save you a decade of headaches. Purchasing new equipment direct from an OEM is going to be nearly impossible. You'll likely need to go through a VAR (value-added reseller). While it may be tempting to purchase devices on eBay or on another e-commerce site at a lower price point, it's a huge risk. It's important to have a trusted partner, rather than just another vendor. Honeywell as a Service, a monthly financing option, is a great way to reduce upfront costs for qualified organizations.

Decommission Plan - Once you've selected a trusted device partner and the Android-ready hardware, you'll need a plan for safely decommissioning your old devices. Removing the outdated Windows OS, wiping all data, and recycling thousands of devices is no small feat. Many vendors offer buyback services, but how can you be sure your data is removed? 

Deployment - Deploying new devices should run in parallel with decommissioning the old ones. Your new devices will require configuration, program loading, staging, and testing before being shipped to each location. A batch rollout by location during business off-hours is a common approach. But deployments can take months and even years in some cases. Don't expect a short transition, especially if you decide to manage the deployment internally and have hundreds of devices on your footprint.

 

Time to Make Moves

Carlton, a Honeywell Platinum Partner, will work hand in hand with your IT team to transition to Android-ready devices.

If you take a proactive approach to Windows end of life, you'll minimize security risks, reduce development costs, accelerate deployments, and increase uptime. Don't settle for obsolete devices in 2020. The time for new technology is now.

 

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