Rugged PCs feed APAC's mobile compute demand

Need for "mission critical" computing on-the-go capabilities in the Asia-Pacific region is fueling demand for rugged PCs, particularly in public-sector domains such as security, education and healthcare, notes analyst.
Written by Kevin Kwang, Contributor

Capitalizing on increasing demand for "mission critical" computing on-the-go capabilities in the Asia-Pacific region, rugged PC makers are churning out devices to cater to sectors such as healthcare, education and homeland security, according to an IDC analyst.

Gerald Wang, senior market analyst for IDC Asia-Pacific Government and Health Insights, noted that these PC makers are producing rugged electronic devices that also come with robust wireless communication infrastructures and services in order to better serve the needs of these sectors.

These needs are usually very specific in function, particularly with regard to the security and public health realm, he added in his e-mail.

For instance, there are telehealth initiatives and rural e-learning projects that are assimilating rugged computing in efforts to "boost the effectiveness of their service delivery", said the analyst. He went on to add that rugged PCs are made to withstand tough environments and the elements, and last noticeably longer both in battery life and device longevity.

His assessment of the industry is echoed by Seng Kim Soon, director of Aaeon Singapore, the regional office of Taiwan-based industrial PC (IPC) maker Aaeon Technology.

He told ZDNet Asia in his e-mail that demand for the company's rugged PCs is coming from "transport, military and building and construction sectors" because users in these fields require devices that have "higher reliability, availability in terms of spare parts and servicing, and [are able to withstand] harsh environments".

Seng also revealed that the company raked in approximately S$3 million (US$2.15 million) in 2009 sales for its rugged PCs in the Southeast Asia market alone, and is projecting S$4 million (US$2.87 million) for this year's sales.

In terms of what consumers are currently requesting, Seng noted: "Less power consumption, lower prices and ability to withstand extreme operating temperatures."

His comments come after the company's president, Lee Yingzhen, said in an earlier Digitimes article that Aaeon is "seeing much stronger demand" for IPC applications in shipping, healthcare, automobile and gaming. He added that the company is projecting "at least a 20 percent growth in 2010 revenues".

Crystal gazing for rugged PC market
As for where the rugged PC market is heading, IDC analyst Wang said "technological influences" from the consumer electronics space, such as "touch-screen capability, instant messaging and nanotechnologies", will be integrated into rugged PCs.

Furthermore, the "urgent need" for mobility by public-sector initiatives in sectors such as telehealth and public security, coupled with the growing maturity of the next-generation telecommunications infrastructure in the region, is leading more rugged PC users to leverage cloud computing resources and "X-as-a-service" for operational agility and transformation, he added.

The analyst also said the trend toward tablets and slates presents an "interesting opportunity" for both PC makers and the public sector.

He elaborated that the former would provide a full suite of electronic offerings for their customers, while for the latter, it could consider revolutionizing its use of "technologies on-the-go".

"However, what ultimately resonates with the public-sector initiatives are value-for-money propositions that meet the minimal computing requirements, remain cost-effective and have the ability to scale beyond a single government procurement cycle until the next technological refresh is due," said Wang.

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