You may or may not have heard that Microsoft is ending their support for the Windows operating systems for rugged mobile scanning devices, specifically Windows CE, Windows Mobile, and Windows Embedded Handheld. The end date for support is scheduled for the year 2020, and while that might sound like it’s a long way off I’m seeing it come up more and more in conversations. People are finally starting to see the writing on the wall and a semi-panic is starting to occur.

But we’ve got time, why panic now?

Microsoft has been the biggest OS provider in the enterprise world for well over a decade now. Some estimates had them at 90% of the market at one point. They weren’t just the biggest player they were effectively the only player. If you wanted to run an application on a handheld device it had to run on Windows. Lately there’s been a major shift, though, and not only in the market itself but also in the users and the technology using these devices.

Android’s been around for a while in the consumer world now and is really taking over the mobile OS market. They may not be as flashy or have as many commercials, but Android is the most common OS for mobile devices across all platforms, and it’s not even close. According to IDC, Android had a market share of 82.8% across all consumer smartphones as of Q2 of 2015, well above their competitors.

In addition, Gartner reported that for 2015 there were 1.3 billion new Android devices shipped compared to 297 million Windows and 283 million iOS devices, a 53% total share. As you can see in the chart below, the percentage of Android devices has been on the rise lately and they plan on staying in the lead because users are backing them up.

So what does this mean for enterprise?

First of all, if your enterprise environment runs on Windows then it’s time to start putting together an exit strategy. Without updated support, systems will be opened up to potential security threats as well as hardware compatibility issues. Even though Windows mobile environments may be more familiar, it’s officially time to think about a change, and planning ahead can save thousands.

Second, enterprise devices are already starting to function like consumer devices. I previously wrote about how implementing a BYOD solution isn’t the answer, but when selecting a rugged device, Android is the best mobile option available. There are some applications that can use Windows 10 on a tablet or small mobile device, but the majority of apps are going to have to run on Android if they’re going to be used at all, so now is the time to get your organization in gear as well if you haven’t already.

So what do I do today to plan ahead?

At a recent panel among retail hardware manufacturers, a representative from Zebra Technologies brought up the three main options when discussing how to handle this transition:

1. Do one last refresh on your current Windows-based hardware soon and use the next three years to come up with a better solution

This is what some of my clients are currently choosing to do. Even though this is just putting a Band-Aid on the problem and delaying the inevitable it might be a viable option if a new solution was recently implemented and it might be a few years until a new one would be justified.

2. Start over from scratch and build a new app from the ground up

This is probably the most expensive option and could take years to successfully implement. Depending on the age and status of the current system this could be either the best or worst option, it’s really varies based on the situation, but not many clients are going this way just yet.

3. Migrate your current application to Android

A good majority are finally seeing the light and are working on migrating to Android in stages. We can actually help with this and can help you use a variety of tools to make the transition as seamless and fast as possible. Depending on the application it could be migrated from Windows to Android in less than a month, which is much faster and therefore cheaper than the alternatives.

“If you ain’t first, you’re last.” – Ricky Bobby

So even though Windows Mobile may be going away soon, it’s not really the end of the world. There are options available and people like myself who are willing to help, so give me a call to talk about how we can make your transition a reality and avoid the headache that comes with waiting until the last minute.

Andrew Hall is a barcode expert with over 5 years of experience in the AIDC industry. He has worked with clients of all sizes and on projects large and small and would be happy to discuss what he can do to make your life at work easier. His number is 847-995-1010 x141 and his email is ahall@smg3.com for more information