The Benefits of Robust Technology
Gone are the days of large, cumbersome workstations and PCs that took up entire desks while weighing more than a medium-sized dog. Besides some very specialized fields that are focused on graphical software and games, most users of computers have smartphones, tablets and laptops, with the latter being slowly squeezed out of the market by the first two. Though this increasing portability is great for a large number of reasons, it brings challenges of its own. The one we will be addressing in this article is the issue of fragility, or rather, that these things seem to break very easily.
After all, if you put several hundred dollars’ worth of microchips and processors in a very small package, there is a good chance something will go very wrong if it falls from any kind of height. Some particularly fragile models can even stop working if they are set down a little hard on a flat surface. This has led to widespread cries from consumers for more robust equipment. As most of us are spending a lot of hard-earned money on these gadgets, they should be able to withstand some abuse and still function for us in most circumstances.
This focus on a more rugged computer should not be confused with another industry trend of the same name. The original rugged appliances were and still are portable devices used by field teams in the military (think sat-navs, communication gear and the like), but also by surveyors, truckers, towers etc. These kinds of computers catch the eye because they are simply huge. To protect them from bumps, scratches, vibrations and falls from great heights they have been encased in several inches of metal and rubber with a waterproof protective cover around them to boot. These devices are usually manufactured to one of many industrial standards that exist, though most of them are modeled in some way or another on military specifications.
Needless to say, your average consumer’s requirements for rugged computing are not quite as prescriptive or extreme. The family SUV doesn’t give off the same vibrations as a battle tank and few if any of us will ever find ourselves on the receiving end of a mortar barrage. What manufacturers need to focus on is consumers’ attention to TCO (total cost of ownership). In a time when the world is still recovering from a deep economic crisis most people are unwilling to spend a significant amount on products that won’t survive even a short fall.
Making the choice between a device’s portability and its survive-ability seems to be the next big challenge for manufacturers. As computing will be predominantly mobile from now on, tablets and phones will need to be able to withstand basic errors by their human users. Though making devices more robust will take away from their mobility, it’s likely that most consumers will be more willing to carry a few extra ounces of weight if it means that their tablet or phone can fall off the nightstand without shattering.