Windows Embedded Handheld 6.5 Mainstream Support ends

Yesterday marked the end of support for WEH6.5 (based on WM6.5). Essentially, the support matrix for MS mobile OSes now looks like this:

WMCEsupport2015

Coming up next is end of extended support for WM5.0 and end of mainstream support for CE7 (WEC7). For CE7 there is a direct replacement called WEC2013, but it has a number of ‘enhancements‘ that make it unusable for rugged devices (removal of graphical shell, browser, RDP support, Control Panel, etc) – it is clearly geared towards embedded devices.

This is not as bad as it seems, since it actually attempts to consolidate all handhelds under WEHH – maintaining one OS is better than maintaining two both for the MS and for its customers. The problem is, WEHH8 didn’t really work out, and its support cycle (that ends before WEH6.5) only reaffirms it.

Thus, the end users are facing a major challenge – no matter what they do, they will have to migrate to an entirely different platform (this includes WEHH8 since it is not compatible with WM/CE, and Win10 is likely to follow suit). And regardless of what platform they choose to migrate, they are facing significant effort:

  • rewriting apps,
  • migrating to new OS (new UI, new user experience, new OS restrictions, new bugs and issues)
  • migrating infrastructure to support new OS
  • migrating management and support processes to support new apps, hardware, OSes and infrastructure
  • re-training personnel for all of the above
  • ironing out those initial post-migration issues, deciding what to do with the existing installed base and all the investment made into software, hardware, infrastructure and accessories (that are not cheap, BTW).
  • etc, etc, etc.
  • thinking of contingency plan for the next migration (don’t fool yourself – it’s coming as soon as you’re done with this one!)

Some things that may help with this and future migrations are

  • Developing new apps as cross-platform right away, using HTML5 app frameworks such as RhoMobile, PhoneGap & Co, or betting on a slightly less portable (but more familiar to .NET devs) Xamarin. This way, the apps can be ported (and tested) first, and thus, be decouples from the hardware changes when the migration time comes.
  • Investing in cross-platform MDM solution such as SOTI or AirWatch to ensure that when the underlying OS changes, there is minimal change to support, deployment and other management processes, and there’s little retraining (and other change) that happens with end users and L1 help desks.
  • Checking with vendor for the support lifecycle for existing devices and migration paths that allow to preserve investment. For example, our MC3200 and MC67 series are already available with both MS and Android OSes, which preserves a great deal of user/admin device experience and the investment into accessories.Not to mention that they are certified with MDMs and can run RhoMobile 🙂

Important note: if it ain’t broken – don’t fix it. There are processes and applications that really don’t care. You don’t need multi-tasking OS with 802.11ac support do to inventories. Heck, there are still companies out there, that offer DOS-based LDT3800 Series from 1995 (and spare batteries can be purchased off Amazon), because they do their job and don’t want to break! In this case, there’s nothing to worry until 2020/2021 (for WM/CE respectively), as the devices most likely will be available on the market (subject to 100500 terms and conditions such as MS licensing policies, component availablitily, etc).

But in the other scenarios, migration is imminent. Don’t panic – start considering. And since it all starts with apps, my bet is this:

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