Motorola's New Handheld Puts Mobility in Users' Hands

By Lawrence Walsh  |  Print this article Print

The MC9500, the first handheld platform released by Motorola in nearly six years, includes improved interfaces, management tools and adaptable components that extend the utility of the device for mobile workers and, potentially, increases opportunities for partners.

The next time FedEx comes to your office, you probably won’t notice that the delivery guy isn’t turning his handheld around for you to put your mark. You probably won’t even notice that the delivery guy is making entries into the handheld while you’re pretending to scribble your signature.

It’s a small change in the new MC9500-K, the new handheld, wireless computer released by Motorola Enterprise Mobility Solutions (EMS) this week. The device incorporates a number of new features and innovations that Motorola says pushes applications and information to mobile workers so they can make better decisions in the field.

"It’s about how we empower the individual," says Gene Delaney, president of Motorola Enterprise Mobility Solutions. "If we can empower the individual, we empower the enterprise because better decisions can be made where users work."

The MC9500 series, the first major handheld platform released by Motorola’s Enterprise Mobility Solutions division in nearly six years, was designed with mobile users and their varying operating environments in mind. Unlike its predecessor, the MC9000, the new ruggedized device has more powerful processing capabilities, easy adaptation for different types of networks and more intelligence for device management.

The unit, which runs on Windows Mobile, features a large 3.7-inch color touch-screen interface, an infrared scanner, a 3-megapixel high-resolution camera, a Marvell PXA320 806MHz microprocessor, Bluetooth, an integrated cell phone and GPS mapping. Many of these features are already available in smartphones and other mobile devices. The inclusion of such things as a camera and GPS gives users the ability to use the MC9500 to take pictures of their field work and better map their routes.

What makes the MC9500 different from competing products and its predecessor, Motorola says, is the holistic design of the unit that makes it more manageable, cost-effective and user-friendly.

The new motion-sensing technology enables the device to orient the screen depending on the user’s motions. In the case of FedEx and UPS drivers, the screen will automatically flip toward the recipient for signature; that means the driver won’t have to physically turn the device or hand the device to the recipient. The same sensor can tell when the device is laying face down, which signals to power down the device to conserve battery life.

It sounds like a small change that will result in only fractions of a second in time savings. But Motorola and FedEx, which provided input into the MC9500-K’s design, say those seconds add up to thousands of workhours when the cumulative actions of thousands of workers and millions of packages are taken into consideration. 

The MC9500 is an adaptable platform that can be reconfigured for different uses and different operating environments. Swappable components allow users to change the types of wireless networks the device can operate with, including 3.5G broadband (GMS HSDPA and CDMA-EVDO). The device supports four different keypads, each designed for specific uses and field environments.

Motorola took back-office management into consideration, replacing the myriad recharging base stations with a rack storage system that recharges batteries and provides network connectivity for management. The device itself features tools for measuring battery power and life, giving users and operations managers tools for planning battery inventories and replacement.

Motorola believes the MC9500 will find receptive customers and multiple verticals, including transportation and shipping, distribution and logistics, retail, health care, and government.

Enterprise mobility is no longer a luxury, but a necessity, Delaney says. And Motorola’s independent software (ISV) and reseller channels are essential parts of the go-to-market plan for the MC9500.

Delaney and other Motorola executives say the MC9500’s extensible platform will provide resellers with opportunities to sell consumables—such as batteries and replacement parts—to users. The ongoing maintenance and services support will provide after-market opportunities for resellers and support organizations.

David Kerbs, director the mobility and wireless practice at VDC Research, says enterprises are looking for holistic, integrated mobility technologies to create workflow efficiencies and reduce operating costs. Applications integrated with mobile hardware platforms—such as supply chain management, CRM and ERP—will add value to customers that have mobile work forces or want to put more workers in field positions.

Delaney says Motorola’s plans for the MC9500 include ensuring that ISVs and channel partners can write applications for the mobile device that align to vertical markets and meet the specific needs of their customers.

Lawrence Walsh Lawrence Walsh is editor of Baseline magazine, overseeing print and online editorial content and the strategic direction of the publication. He is also a regular columnist for Ziff Davis Enterprise's Channel Insider. Mr. Walsh is well versed in IT technology and issues, and he is an expert in IT security technologies and policies, managed services, business intelligence software and IT reseller channels. An award-winning journalist, Mr. Walsh has served as editor of CMP Technology's VARBusiness and GovernmentVAR magazines, and TechTarget's Information Security magazine. He has written hundreds of articles, analyses and commentaries on the development of reseller businesses, the IT marketplace and managed services, as well as information security policy, strategy and technology. Prior to his magazine career, Mr. Walsh was a newspaper editor and reporter, having held editorial positions at the Boston Globe, MetroWest Daily News, Brockton Enterprise and Community Newspaper Company.