A worker uses an early model touch computer to inspect a piece of office equipment.
By Rob Puric | April 04, 2019

#ThrowbackThursday: When the Touch Computer Took Over (Part 2)

The events that led up to Zebra’s millionth-shipped TC5X and other noteworthy industry milestones

Editor’s Note: Last week, Rob gave you a quick rundown of how the consumer-centric PDA (personal digital assistant) stimulated demand for the key-based EDA (enterprise digital assistant) and, eventually, the touch mobile computer in the late 1990s and early 2000s. But the touch computers available today are not the same you were using even five years ago. A few key events fast-tracked further innovation and market evolution. Rob gives you the scoop below:

The Start of Android™ Exploration – and a New Era in Enterprise Mobile Computing

By 2012, Zebra had accelerated its engineering innovation around Android™ touch computers, scanners, tablets and more. We developed our Mobility DNA, a unique software ecosystem that transforms Android, now the world’s most popular consumer OS, into an enterprise-ready force. And from there the growth and popularity of Zebra’s touch computer portfolio exploded.

In fact, we just shipped our one millionth TC51/TC56 earlier this year – a milestone that took less than two years to accomplish. (Yes, the one-millionth device came off the manufacturing line in gold.)

Joe Licari, Director of Product Management, Enterprise Mobile Computing. Joe manages the product management team along with product families for our retail and healthcare mobile computing products including the TC51/52, TC70, TC72, PS20 and other products.

Pictured above is Joe Licari, Director of Product Management, Enterprise Mobile Computing. Joe manages the product management team along with product families for our retail and healthcare mobile computing products including the TC51/52, TC70, TC72, PS20 and other products. ​

Selling one million devices from a single product family is a huge accomplishment, as many competitors may not even ship these many devices from their entire portfolio. So, when asked what propelled the rapid market adoption of the touch computer – and the TC5x specifically – I remind people of the following six factors:

1.    Zebra acquired Motorola Solutions’ Enterprise business (which included the Symbol handheld computer portfolio) in 2014. This gave us unparalleled capabilities to strengthen data capture and mobile computing technologies, including the touch computer. We had the resources to quickly innovate and support enterprise customers’ evolving technology needs. It also allowed us to be more responsive to uncontrollable market influences on our customers’ business, which leads me to the next factor…

2.    It became clear in 2015 that Android was the only viable migration path to a modern and sustainable OS for legacy Windows applications as Microsoft ends its support for Windows™ Mobile (2020) and Windows CE (2021) devices. But customers couldn’t afford to lose the benefits of their touch computers. The unique value proposition of these mobile devices had been well documented for nearly two decades.

3.    Though the TC5x is rugged, it has the pocketable design and feel of a consumer smartphone. The familiar Android user interface touch screen also works when wet, with a gloved hand or stylus. This makes it easy to onboard new users and ensure continuous use in both indoor and outdoor environments. The TC5x’s five-inch sunlight-readable display provides workers the power and flexibility to scan barcodes, capture photos with a 13 MP camera. Even better, the touch computer can capture data from 1D and 2D barcodes that are damaged, dirty or poorly printed without issue.

4.    The TC5x uses less power than competing devices but can run applications up to five times faster – a win-win for productivity, especially in shift environments such as healthcare, retail, transportation and logistics.

5.    The TC5x is priced right, offers the right ergonomics and serves as both a data and voice device (with LAN and WWAN connection options).

6.    Finally, we just released our brand new TC52/TC57, which adds the latest Qualcomm SDM660 platform architecture without compromising the user-appeasing look and feel of the earlier TC5x models. More importantly, the new generation uses the same accessories as the TC5x that customers have been using for a while. This now gives our customers an upgrade path to the latest and greatest touch computer for their enterprise mobile computing needs, while protecting their prior investment.

In short, the touch computer (and TC5x series in particular) makes our customers’ leadership teams and front-line workers happy. The sizeable investment that top retail and T&L brands have made to date, and the willingness of Target, Walgreens, Bealls, Doddle and others to publicly disclose their technology selections, are validation of this. Through a great deal of due-diligence and real-world testing, the business case for the touch computer is more than proven.

Who would have thought we would have come this far, this fast, from when the first PDA hit the market?

Inside Zebra Nation, Manufacturing, Healthcare, Public Sector, Retail, Hospitality, Warehouse and Distribution, Transportation and Logistics, Field Operations,
Rob Puric
Rob Puric

Rob Puric serves as the Senior Director of Global Field Mobility within the Enterprise Mobile Computing group at Zebra Technologies. He is responsible for the launch and management of all mobile computing solutions that Zebra develops for field mobility sector customers and applications. In this capacity, Mr. Puric interfaces with leaders of various Fortune 500 Postal, Transportation & Logistics, Airline, Field Sales and Service companies, as well as Zebra’s global partners – including Google, Qualcomm and global wireless carriers – to help define Zebra’s next generation mobile computers and platforms.

Throughout his career, Mr. Puric has held positions of increasing responsibility in Product Management, Marketing, Operations and Business Development. Prior to joining Zebra, he spent seven years as the Global Director of Product Management for Honeywell International Inc., leading their Connected Home and IoT Portfolio.

Prior to Honeywell, Mr. Puric spent 12 years at Motorola Solutions and Symbol Technologies Inc. as the Director of Strategic Planning for the Enterprise Mobile Computing & Solutions Group. He was responsible for defining the companies’ next generation platforms, product and roadmap planning and driving growth across the $1 billion+ mobile computing portfolio. Before that, Mr. Puric served as the mobile computing integration leader and was responsible for the successful integration of Motorola’s Symbol Technology acquisition, which included product roadmap integration. He was also credited with delivering target business results and facilitating cost/sales synergies across the globe.

Prior to Symbol Technologies, Mr. Puric was a Sr. Aerodynamic Flight Test Engineer for McDonnell Douglas, now Boeing Corp. He has over 1,200 flight hours on various commercial and military aircraft and holds multiple FAA licenses.

Mr. Puric is a Six Sigma trained and certified Black Belt and holds a bachelor of science (BS) degree in Aerospace Engineering from Northrop University, CA. and College of Aeronautics, NY.

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