Motorola Solutions today announced a 7-in. touchscreen rugged tablet based on Android 2.3 that will initially be deployed for workers in retail stores and warehouses.
The ET1 features a 1GHz dual-core processor and 8GB of internal storage that can be expanded with an external 32 GB microSD card.
Sheldon Safir, director of product marketing for Motorola Solutions, said the 1.4-pound tablet will cost less than $1,000 when purchased in large volumes by businesses. Shipments begin in December.
While the price is well above the $499 price for an entry-level iPad 2 with its 9.7-in. screen, Safir said the ET1 is expected to have three to five years of life, given its ruggedness -- far outlasting consumer-grade tablets.
"Enterprises will only need to buy 40% fewer of these tablets [over the years] because of the way they are built," he said.
The ET1 is design to withstand multiple bumps and drops in a typical workday and comes with a Gorilla Glass display, he said. The glass is 30% thicker than in most consumer tablets and is recessed to better withstand drops.
The device will also support multiple users, with logon software that helps each user find his or her particular applications, documents and identity profile on a remote server. Batteries can be swapped out for all-day use without the need to shut down the device, as long as the swap is done in 15 minutes.
The first version of the ET1 is Wi-Fi-only, but Motorola is working on a Wide Area Network version as well, Safir said. Snap-on accessories include a barcode reader and magnetic stripe reader, as well as a handstrap and holster.
With front and rear cameras, the ET1 will support videoconferencing that managers in large retail stores could use for easy communications. Workers can also use the device to do price checks and price comparisons with customers. Motorola has conducted a beta program with retailers who are pleased with the tablet and its development platform, Safir added.
The decision to use Android 2.3 is partly based on concerns by businesses that have traditionally used Windows CE OS for rugged handhelds but are worried about how Microsoft will support the older OS with the newer Windows Mobile OS. "Customers feel they can worry less about Android," Safir said.
In addition to the tablet, Motorola announced RhoElements, a Web-based application development tool for building HTML5 apps on Windows Embedded Handheld (also called Windows Mobile) and Windows CE devices, as well as the new ET1 device. Motorola acquired Rhomobile on July 29.
Several business-focused tablets have been introduced in the past year, including the Cius from Cisco and the 7-in. Playbook from RIM. PlayBook's sales declined the second quarter it was sold, but Safir said that ET1 "has a much more targeted market than PlayBook," which stands to improve its odds.
Ken Dulaney, an analyst at Gartner, said that it doesn't matter that Motorola built ET1 with Android 2.3, when Android 3.0 is maximized for tablets. The reason is that Android is open source software and "many things can be added" by a manufacturer, as Motorola has done.
"It is a vertical market product, not a consumer product, and at that [sub-$1,000] price, it will sell to the Motorola Solutions base of business customers," Dulaney added. "It is one of the few truly ruggedized Android tablets out there."
More tablet info
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Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.