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Why An Industrial Grade Mobile Computer Cost Less Than a Consumer Grade Ones? October 13,2017.

Looking Beyond Your Purchasing Price

When we purchase the mobile computer product, most business may be tempted to base their buying decisions solely on a product’s purchase price. However, because the purchase price most of the time can not reflect the real cost of the unit, the decision could turn out to be a costly mistake. To evaluate the real cost of a product, it’s wiser to look at the cost over the life of the product and this is also being known as the product’s total cost of ownership (TCO).



The term TCO are often applied in other areas of our life. When we are buying a new car, most of us will do at least some research to find out about the vehicle's repair record. A cheaper car that spends half the time in the repair shop is no bargain.


The same concept applies with mobile computers. Computers that often used outside of a safe office environment are going to be subjected to a lot of rough treatment. Drops, vibration, water, dust and extreme temperatures are only some of the conditions that a computer may face in the field. It seems logical that you would not take a delicate piece of electronic device into a rough environment, but it is what happens more often that you would think.


Why? Because many buyers of rugged mobile computers are lured by the lower initial purchase price into buying some non-rugged or minimally ruggedized equipment solely because of the cheaper purchase price, without take into account the higher costs of actually using this equipment in the field. By failing to purchase the right kind of unit for the job and the environment, they often paying a lot more in the long run than if they had purchased a more rugged, but more expensive, piece of equipment initially. In other words, the more expensive unit is actually the cheaper unit.


A Higher Initial Investment More Often Give You a Lower Total Cost

The total cost of ownersihp (TCO) takes into account all the actual costs incurred during the entire life span of a product. It’s comprised of hard costs (such as purchase price, replacement, and deployment costs) and soft costs (like training, repairs, and downtime costs). As organizations become more dependent on their mobile workforce, downtime costs is becoming increasingly important. If a field workers has a equipment that fails at the start of his day, the lost service revenue and customer goodwill from all the missed service calls could be substantial.

Mobile computers accordingly to it’s ruggedness, can be divided into one of the four categories:

  • Commercial
  • Durable
  • Semi-rugged
  • Fully-rugged

A commercial unit is a unit that has little or nearly no protection against the environment. Durable computers generally have only hard shells and perhaps a shock-mounted hard drive. Semi-rugged computers are tested to meet some MIL-STD-810F/G and IP specifications, and fully rugged units are generally fully tested to MIL-STD-810F/G and often totally resistant to both water and dust.


So what is the difference in the total cost of ownership between a fully rugged device and a commercial device in a reasonably tough environment? The Venture Development Corporation (VDC), as the notable independent research firm that focuses on rugged computers, have performed a TCO computations across the 4 categories of rugged computers across a number of common mobile applications. VDC calculated the total cost for each level of rugged device over a 5 year lifespan and then annualized the costs. These costs (broken them down into hard costs and soft costs) are shown in


From the figure, it becomes clear that using a commercial or non-rugged device will cost you a lot more in the long run; about 65% more per year than using a fully rugged device.



How Could That Possible?

It makes sense if you think of all the conditions that could happen to a non-rugged device in the field. For example, if we have a look at replacement costs. A fully rugged mobile computer will often last for 5 years. So if you purchase a fully rugged units, at the end of 5 years you will still have most of them still in operation. If you purchase 100 commercial devices and put them into a rugged environment, chances are that none of the original units will be operational at the end of 5 years. And some of those units will need to be replaced multiple times over the course of the 5 year period.


How many commercial devices do you need to buy before you have equaled the purchase price of a rugged ones? And that does not even include some of the other costs we discussed like downtime costs, the cost of deploying a new unit, and the cost of re-acquiring lost data. Ultimately, you need to carefully evaluate your own working situation to determine what your own total costs of ownership are going to be and choose the right mobile computer for your business.

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