In 2023, rugged tablets and PCs are mission-critical business tools designed to serve specific enterprise use cases where high-performance computing power and reliability are paramount. Rugged devices offer all the benefits of consumer-grade tablets and PCs, with increased durability and enterprise-specific features such as physical keyboards, detachable keyboards, nonstandard serial ports, extra bright screens, high-capacity user-swappable batteries, interchangeable internal components, and extra loudspeakers. Rugged tablets and PCs are primarily targeted for frontline workers in manufacturing, public safety, utilities, healthcare, government, and field services. They allow workers to interact with larger volumes of visual data with greater precision than handheld mobile devices and perform better at delivering a desktop user experience for Windows applications and embedded systems.
In 2022, 44% of U.S. enterprise organizations reported they deploy rugged PCs, with another 38% reporting they deploy rugged tablets and handheld devices. Without question, the primary reason businesses choose to deploy rugged devices is to help prevent damage to the hardware in challenging work environments. Rugged devices are often designed with extremely tough exterior shells, shatter resistant screens, and protected internal components to help protect the device from accidental drops, moisture, dust, and electrostatic discharge. Most rugged devices meet a minimum IP65 (ingress protection) rating, and many more also meet MIL-STD-810 (military standard) defense requirements. Essentially, enterprise-grade rugged devices are built tough and are meant to see heavy repeated use in harsh environments.
Rugged devices also can include features and components that make them especially well-suited for enterprise use cases, such as smart card readers, nonstandard serial ports, multiple connectivity options, user-swappable batteries, and a range of support accessories and docking stations that increase the usefulness of the device in a specific workflow. While consumer tablets and PCs are incredibly capable and sophisticated pieces of technology, they are not designed for the types of enterprise use cases or environments rugged devices have been purpose built for and therefore do not offer the same levels of customization and capability of dedicated rugged devices.
Finally, because of their added durability and enterprise-specific workflows, rugged devices often have much longer deployment life cycles than consumer-grade devices. Since they break less often than consumer devices, these devices can last anywhere in the field from three to five years, and most rugged device manufacturers offer additional extended support services to increase the life of the device beyond five years. While this is obviously convenient for the customer from a logistics and deployment perspective, it also frequently translates directly to an overall lower total cost of ownership (TCO) than consumer devices.
One of the core challenges rugged device manufacturers often face is communicating to potential customers that rugged devices do in fact deliver a lower TCO than consumer-grade devices. Due to their added durability, components, and additional features, rugged devices often have a much higher MSRP than a consumer-grade device, even two times or three times as much depending on the device, especially rugged PCs. As enterprise IT departments are becoming increasingly price conscientious regarding IT investments, the high price tags associated with rugged deployments present a significant obstacle for new customers.
Compounding the issue with the high up-front costs of rugged deployments is consumer-grade devices themselves. The familiarity of consumer-grade devices among business end users and IT departments alike makes them a seemingly obvious solution for enterprise deployments. When combined with their lower initial cost compared with purpose-built rugged devices, they often end up getting selected for suboptimal deployments where a purpose-built rugged device should be deployed. This is somewhat less of a challenge regarding rugged PCs, as they are often deployed in specific field service, defense, or law enforcement scenarios where durability and reliability are absolutely mission-critical requirements. However, it must be noted that the rugged PC market is not wholly immune from the ingress of consumer-grade devices, especially as consumer models can include semi-rugged construction and features at a lower cost of entry. Educating potential customers on the pitfalls of deploying consumer-grade tablets and PCs in rugged scenarios is an ongoing but very important challenge to overcome in the rugged market.
Last, by design, rugged devices address a specific set of key workflows in certain industries, meaning they are not general-purpose devices. Unlike consumer-grade devices, they cannot be marketed and sold to consumers and businesses the same way or at the same volumes as their consumer equivalents. This means that the overall total addressable market (TAM) for rugged devices is generally limited to certain verticals and use cases, presenting a challenge for broader enterprise growth. However, while rugged devices may not see the level of demand of consumer devices in business, the good news is that there is growing demand and opportunity for rugged expansion in frontline worker mobilization.
Despite challenges, the future of rugged mobility is secure. Rugged devices perform tasks that consumer-grade devices cannot, and they excel in highly specialized enterprise workflows. As more businesses seek to enable larger segments of their workforce, frontline workers present a clear opportunity for growth.
Historically, deskless frontline workers have been slower to benefit from mobile and desktop computing than office-based information workers, but this is changing. Frontline work is often manual in nature, task oriented, and many frontline workers spend most of their day on their feet interacting with customers directly, whereas office-based information workers primarily worked with computers, and through adoption, mobile devices naturally helped augment their primary workflows. In addition, frontline workers are much more likely to use shared workstations when desktop computing is required. However, access to mobile hardware, software, services, and connectivity is becoming increasingly essential to frontline workflows. In fact, in 2022, 42% of non-office-based workers (frontline) in the United States are mobile-dependent workers, meaning they cannot physically complete their assigned tasks or workflows without the aid of a mobile device or mobile connectivity.
With increased mobilization efforts targeted at frontline workers, rugged deployments will see increased demand, as will expanded rugged use cases. Businesses will continue to require durable, capable, and purpose-built enterprise devices to enable frontline workers in this second wave of digital transformation, and rugged devices will play a crucial role in these efforts.
Technology buyers should evaluate rugged tablet and PC offerings with a wholistic view of current and future goals for enabling rugged computing. To that end, the criteria and attributes that are key for IT buyers to consider when evaluating rugged device providers are discussed in the section that follows.
This section briefly explains IDC’s key observations resulting in a Getac’s position in the IDC MarketScape, and provides a summary of the vendor’s strengths and challenges.
Getac is positioned in the Leaders category in the 2023 IDC MarketScape for worldwide rugged tablet and PC.
Getac is a global provider of rugged mobile technology and intelligent video solutions, including laptops, tablets, software, body-worn cameras, in-car video cameras, and cloud-based evidence management software. Getac’s portfolio of fully rugged tablets supports both Android- and Windows-based OSs, slate, and two-in-one form factors; a variety of screen sizes; user-swappable batteries; customizable configurations; optional mobile connectivity; Wi-Fi; and FirstNet Ready. Getac’s rugged solutions and support services are designed to enable frontline workers in defense, public safety, utilities, automotive, field service, manufacturing, transport, and logistics industries.
Getac offers an extensive and diverse portfolio of rugged hardware that is differentiated across multiple OSs, form factors, and screen sizes. In addition, Getac has differentiated offerings in rugged in-car video and body-worn cameras not offered by its direct competitors. These adjacent offerings create potential for additional expansion into public safety and law enforcement.
Getac is a participant in the Android Enterprise Recommended program, ensuring its Android tablets will receive timely security updates and OS support during deployment life cycles.
Getac designs and manufactures its own products and works with Getac Holdings’ subsidiaries to make key critical components, including motherboards, batteries, mobile computing chassis, and copolymer mechanical components for a vertically integrated supply chain.
Getac faces challenges in communicating the TCO and ROI of its devices to potential customers that may be attracted to cheaper and more accessible consumer-grade devices.
Getac will see increased pressure from competitors with competitively priced Android rugged tablets, as well as established competitors in the rugged PC market.
Given the finite addressable market for rugged PC solutions, competition for market share will remain fierce. Rugged PC vendors will have to demonstrate value and differentiation in their solutions over their competitors.
Enterprise organizations that require either Android- or Windows-based fully rugged solutions designed for a multitude of frontline use cases should consider Getac high on their list of rugged device providers.
IDC invited vendors to participate based on two key criteria:
For the purposes of this analysis, IDC divided potential key measures for success into two primary categories: capabilities and strategies.
Positioning on the y-axis reflects the vendor’s current capabilities and menu of services and how well aligned the vendor is to customer needs. The capabilities category focuses on the capabilities of the company and product today, here and now. Under this category, IDC analysts will look at how well a vendor is building/delivering capabilities that enable it to execute its chosen strategy in the market.
Positioning on the x-axis, or strategies axis, indicates how well the vendor’s future strategy aligns with what customers will require in three to five years. The strategies category focuses on high-level decisions and underlying assumptions about offerings, customer segments, and business and go-to-market plans for the next three to five years.
The size of the individual vendor markers in the IDC MarketScape represents the market share of each individual vendor within the specific market segment being assessed.
IDC MarketScape criteria selection, weightings, and vendor scores represent well-researched IDC judgment about the market and specific vendors. IDC analysts tailor the range of standard characteristics by which vendors are measured through structured discussions, surveys, and interviews with market leaders, participants, and end users. Market weightings are based on user interviews, buyer surveys, and the input of IDC experts in each market. IDC analysts base individual vendor scores, and ultimately vendor positions on the IDC MarketScape, on detailed surveys and interviews with the vendors, publicly available information, and end-user experiences in an effort to provide an accurate and consistent assessment of each vendor’s characteristics, behavior, and capability.
The IDC definition of rugged tablets includes devices that are of industrial design, have mobile computing capabilities, are capable of data capture, and have wireless connectivity. In detail:
These devices must have a high-level operating system, application processors, and the ability to run third-party applications. Such devices are typically designed for data capture, may have 1D and 2D barcode scanning capabilities, and include onboard intelligence and wireless connectivity to back-end enterprise IT systems. Devices may also include a variety of additional biometric and environmental sensors, as well as touchscreens, voice command, and/or keypad input methods. These devices must have some form of wireless connectivity for data. Connectivity covers a wide variety and includes one or more of the following: 802.11 x WLAN, GSM-based WWAN, CDMA-based WWAN, Bluetooth or infrared WPAN, and GPS.
The IDC definition of a rugged personal computer (PC) is a general-purpose, single-user machine that is microprocessor based, can support attached peripherals, can be programmed in high-level language, and is typically of industrial design intended to withstand harsh environments. There is now a range of products that might meet these criteria, but a PC must fit into one of two categories — desktop PC or portable PC. Products specifically excluded from this definition of PCs include but are not limited to:
A general guideline of user environment specifications for ruggedized devices is as follows:
This IDC study represents a vendor assessment of providers offering rugged tablets and PCs through the IDC MarketScape model. The assessment reviews both quantitative and qualitative characteristics that define current market demands and expected buyer needs for rugged solutions. The evaluation is based on a comprehensive and rigorous framework that assesses each vendor relative to one another, and the framework highlights the key factors that are expected to be the most significant for achieving success in rugged computing over the short term and the long term.
“In 2023, rugged tablets and PCs are mission-critical business tools designed to serve specific enterprise use cases where high-performance computing power and reliability are paramount. Rugged devices offer all the benefits of consumer-grade tablets and PCs, with increased durability and enterprise-specific features such as physical keyboards, detachable keyboards, nonstandard serial ports, extra bright screens, high-capacity user-swappable batteries, interchangeable internal components, and extra loudspeakers. Rugged tablets and PCs are primarily targeted for frontline workers in manufacturing, public safety, utilities, healthcare, government, and field services. They allow workers to interact with larger volumes of visual data with greater precision than handheld mobile devices and perform better at delivering a desktop user experience for Windows applications and embedded systems.”