Motorola Solutions, this week, launched the ET1 tablet, a rugged solution for the retail, government, and hospitality markets, and an attempt to curb the growing penetration of consumer tablets in environments better suited for tougher technologies.
The specs are appealing for VARs looking to resell a rugged tablet. The ET1 has a user-swappable battery, a 1Ghz dual-core processor that can run Windows and Android (it comes loaded with Android), a 7-inch capacitive touchscreen with thick Gorilla glass for protection, WiFi connectivity, and a dual-sided 8MP camera. Motorola promises peripherals for barcode scanning and credit card processing, which should make it ideal for mobile POS and line-busting applications.
VSR had a chance to demo an advanced model and we found it to be a little heavy for constant use (it had a heft on par with the original Samsung Galaxy). The actual case is bulky, which Motorola Solutions said is necessary because of the added ruggedness, but it will have a strap to make it easier for employees to carry. The operating system is fast and responsive, it quickly loads apps, and moves through menus with ease.
Motorola Solutions also announced an application framework dubbed RhoElements for ISVs that want to develop ET1-specific software. While the tablet can run any software available on the Android marketplace, Motorola wants to ensure that enterprise level software is created to a higher level of specifications. No word yet if we are going to see a Motorola app store in the near future.
Channel insiders have criticized the use of consumer tablets, particularly the Apple iPad (and even Motorola's XOOM), as retail and enterprise solutions. Technically, consumer types of products aren't meant to withstand drops and liquid spills, and don't have the battery life to last an entire shift. That doesn't mean that many retail establishments haven't already deployed iPads into their stores. Both Pacific Sunwear and Rite Aid are currently piloting programs where employees are carrying the tablets to give consumers access to product information. The Motorola ET1 should prove a solid competitor to the iPad, but a lot will depend on cost and reseller interest.
As of this week, the ET1 does not have a price tag, but Motorola said that it will be in the range of enterprise-class tools. The question is whether the market will pay a premium for ruggedness? Only time will tell.