I mentioned a couple of months ago my recent “conversion” to the tablet: how I am now convinced that tablets are more than just a cool consumer device, but represent a new vector of compute power which will find itself going into more and more places.
One particular use case which fascinated me was in the non-consumer setting, what is mostly “fresh territory” for tablet manufacturers to pursue. But, whereas most manufacturers — like Lenovo and Toshiba — are taking on the non-consumer setting by chasing the traditional enterprise technology market, Motorola Solutions, which was spun out from the original Motorola alongside (but separate from) the consumer-oriented Motorola Mobility which was recently acquired by Google — they build things like hardware/IT systems for businesses and governments, has taken a much more customized approach (HT: EETimes) which really embodies some of the strengths of the Android approach.
Instead of building yet another Android Honeycomb tablet, Motorola Solutions has built a ruggedized Android tablet called the ET1 (Enterprise Tablet 1 – hey, they sell mainly to industrial and government customers where you don’t need catchy names :-)), with the emphasis on the word “ruggedized”. Yes, it has a 7” touchscreen, but this really wasn’t meant for casual consumer use at home: its meant to be used in the field/factory setting, built with a strengthened case and Gorilla Glass screen (so that it can survive drops/spills/impacts), support for external accessories (i.e. barcode scanners, printers, holsters/cases), a special hot-swappable rapid charge battery pack so that you can re-juice the device without interrupting the device function, and a “hardened” (translation: more secure by stripping out unnecessary consumer-oriented capabilities) Android operating system with support for rapidly switching between multiple user profiles (because multiple employees might use the same device on different shifts).
Will this device be a huge success? Probably not by any consumer electronic manufacturer’s metric. After all, the tablet isn’t meant for consumers (and won’t be priced that way or sold through stores/consumer eCommerce sites). But, that’s the beauty of the Android approach. If you’re not building a consumer tablet, you don’t have to. In the same way that Android phone manufacturers/software developers can experiment with different price points/business models in Africa, manufacturers can leverage (and customize) Android to target different use models and form factors entirely to satisfy the needs of specific market segments/ecosystem players, taking what they need and changing/removing what they don’t. I don’t know for sure what Motorola Solutions is aiming to get out of this, but maybe the goal isn’t to put as many of these devices out there as possible but simply to add a few key accounts with which to sell other services/software. I have no idea, but the point is that an open platform lets you do things like this. Or, to put it more simply, as I said before about Linux/Android: “go custom or go home”.