Early this year, we interviewed Hal Kolp, vice president of IT at Source Refrigeration & HVAC, a market leader in the design, installation, repair, maintenance, and optimization of mission-critical refrigeration & HVAC systems, with more than 1,000 field-based service and installation technicians serving the needs of more than 2,500 customers nationwide.
At the time of the feature article, Source’s field techs were using Windows-based Motorola ES400 devices in the field to run a custom mobile application. But during the interview, Kolp mentioned to us that the company would soon be transitioning from the Windows environment to iOS and deploying iPhones to the workforce to replace the Windows-based devices. I recently caught up with Hal to see how the migration is going and what advice he has for a company looking to migrate to a new OS.
What was the #1 reason you decided to migrate from the Windows-based Motorola ES400 to the iOS-based iPhone for your mobile application?
We are currently running the 4th generation of our Windows Mobile application. Our application has been a huge success for our business, but it became time to upgrade our devices again. New devices with a new or updated operating system means we will need an application change, so we took extra time to evaluate our current options. When we considered our device choices, we quickly decided against Windows Phone 8 because of how new it was, the limited hardware choices, and the uncertainty of whether the OS would be successful or not. We also decided against the older Windows Mobile devices because of continued challenges with the OS.
It just made sense to leave the Windows platform, and that left us with the options of Android and Apple. The iPhone won out for a few reasons. First, many of our office workers have had positive experiences with the device, so it has a good reputation among them. Also, there are plenty of warranty options including rapid repair, and there is an abundance of accessories available in the third-party marketplace.
You mentioned to us that “there are things we’d like to do with our mobile application in the future that are harder to achieve in the Windows environment.” What are those “things,” and why would they have been difficult in the Windows environment?
When we built the latest version of our mobile application last year, we tried to incorporate touch for application navigation, but the development environment and the Windows OS made it difficult. Ultimately we gave up. Windows Mobile 5 and 6 are really quite obsolete at this time, and Windows Phone 8 is too new and unproven. When we decided to build our next-generation field service application, we wanted a device that had an abundance of applications built-in or available by free download or purchase. The iPhone was appealing in this regard because there are plenty of apps in the App Store that our technicians will find useful.
Many say that Windows is doing a bad job of “keeping up” and staying relevant. What’s your take on this?
Windows Mobile did not progress for many years, and the changes that were introduced didn’t really add much functionality. Features like touch were much harder to implement prior to version 8. The Windows OS also kept the device manufacturers stuck in time, and as a result companies like ours have decided to look for devices that have better features and other third-party applications to support the business. Windows Phone 8 appears to be a big jump forward, but the big question is whether the OS will ever become fully accepted.
What was your #1 concern when you decided to move forward with this migration? How did you address this concern throughout the process to make sure it didn’t become a big problem?
Moving to a new device with a new operating system and rebuilding an application brings many risks. We had hoped the mobile application platform we use would make the change as simple as recompiling code and reusing our business logic, but it wasn’t that easy. This forced us to look at the changes taking place in the mobile market, and it became clear that device and OS updates will continue to occur at a fast pace. We need something to help insulate us from the market trend of introducing new devices and operating systems every 6 to 12 months.
This interview first appeared in Field Technologies magazine and was conducted by Sarah Howland, the magazine’s editor-in-chief. You can read the full interview here.