In many business settings, when an operating system (OS) nears or reaches the manufacturer’s end of support, there’s no question about whether to upgrade. Among other things, an unsupported desktop, laptop or mobile OS could present financial and security risks for its users, not to mention new features companies would miss out on by not upgrading.
Businesses that utilize warehouse management operating systems should still consider those risks. However, an OS used on a warehouse device, such as a mobile computer is different from others, and those differences are worth considering when weighing whether to upgrade end-of-life technology.
When operating systems for warehouse mobile computers creep near or surpasses their end-of-life support, they can still be as useful as they were when they were supported. Here are a few compelling reasons why operating systems designed for mobile devices don’t necessarily need to replaced immediately once their service support runs out:
Operating systems used on mobile devices found in warehouses are much different than the operating systems that companies use in their offices. Operating systems that operate on mobile handheld scanners with a built-in onboard computer are designed for a specific purpose. These devices and software are used to manage inventory and scan barcodes, as well as perform shipping and receiving activities. Once configured for these functions, their purpose remains the same and doesn’t need to change.
In this way, an unsupported OS doesn’t present a real challenge for warehouse management, as it is a purpose-built asset. Ongoing support isn’t needed like it is for traditional desktop operating systems that must connect and interact with rapidly changing applications and platforms.
Warehouse operating systems aren’t the same as traditional office operating systems. These purpose-built assets don’t need to be updated as soon as they lose support.
A priority for business managers is the total cost of ownership (TCO) of any asset being utilized for operations. Keeping TCO as low as possible is an objective any business can get behind, and often the price attached to upgrading an OS doesn’t align with the goal of maintaining a low TCO.
In fact, a survey from Commonwealth Supply Chain Advisors found that 28 percent of businesses avoid updating their warehouse management system because of the cost. Another 28 percent noted that the “perceived benefit” of updating simply isn’t worth the price.
One vice president of engineering from a warehouse distribution company who participated in the poll articulated this reasoning best: “There is a general feeling that these [implementation] projects take twice as long as proposed, the cost will probably double, and there will be major service disruptions along the way. There are plenty of stories out there of companies that struggled with these projects.”
In many instances, replacing an end-of-life system isn’t worth the cost or the possible challenge.
An outdated mobile computer OS could pose a security risk. But sometimes when manufacturers end support for older systems, they use the situation to guide users toward the latest version. Vendors often fan the flames when it comes to the fear, uncertainty, and doubt of using an unsupported system as a way to attract users to their newly released product, even though that product isn’t much different to its previous iterations.
If you do decide to upgrade your mobile computer OS, make that decision based on cold, hard facts related to the security of your data, the efficiency of your operations, etc., not marketing ploys and scare tactics.
Lots of companies keep an end-of-life mobile computer OS in place. Doing so has become an increasingly popular approach for warehouse managers seeking to maintain low TCO while ensuring employees have the tools they need. One such example is Windows CE 5. This OS has been a mainstay in the warehouse distribution industry for years. Businesses in 2018 rely on CE 5 even though Microsoft support for it ended in late 2009.