CRN Exclusive: Zebra Zeroes In On Enterprise With Two New Tablets

Zebra Technologies Tuesday rolled out two new enterprise-grade tablet computers meant to appeal to the enterprise market through business-targeted accessories, security and device management capabilities, and flexible operating system and size options.

"We're excited to see these tablets. … Their styling looks very similar to the attractiveness of an iPad. … They are much more streamlined while retaining the ruggedness that the market needs," said Mark Alyn, outside sales manager at ScanTexas, an Allen, Texas-based Zebra partner that resells bar-code scanners and mobile computers. "[Zebra's] ET1 [enterprise tablet] was not the market sensation that it was supposed to be, but our customers are excited in general about new mobile computers."

The two new tablet computers, the next-generation ET50 and ET55, contain features for mobile workforces, enterprise-targeted accessories, and security, device management and data capture abilities.

[Related: Zebra Unveils Refurbished Channel Program, Fleshing Out Motorola Solutions Acquisition]

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The tablets also aim to promote various options in terms of sizes and operating system variants, which is a step forward from the one tablet variant offered by Zebra through its ET1 enterprise tablet.

The tablets, which come in 8-inch and 10-inch variants, can be run using either the Windows 8.1 and Windows 10 operating systems, or the Android 5.1 Lollipop operating system.

While the ET50 features Wi-Fi connectivity, the ET55 contains 4G LTE cellular connectivity, and both contain Zebra OneCare Essential Services to provide device diagnostics and coverage.

Zebra also added business applications to its Android-based tablets, including mobility extensions, which add enterprise-class security and device management capabilities, as well as an Android enterprise apps store providing ready-to-use apps.

But other features, according to Mike Peterson, head of mobile computing global marketing at Zebra, came as a direct response to what reseller partners and distributors said that they needed in the enterprise space.

"When we spoke to our partners, … we realized there's a hole in this space for enterprise tablets," he said. "There are tablets that are thin and light, but very consumer-centric. And on the other end, there were some heavily ruggedized tablets that were so big that they weren't fit for standard enterprise applications. There is a need for true enterprise-class tablet that is the right size, durability and price point to turn into a solution."

Peterson highlighted the accessories that also come along with the new tablets, such as vehicle mount cradles for service technicians, delivery drivers and salespeople; advanced scanning capabilities for photos, NFC tags and bar codes; and hot-swappable batteries that run in addition to the built-in battery and deliver extended power for field service, transportation and other vertical employees.

For ScanTexas' Alyn, battery life is particularly important for customers who are in vertical markets where they cannot afford to lose power. One of ScanTexas' customers in the health-care space recently opted for MC40 devices over the iPhone, he said, because of Zebra's replaceable battery capabilities.

The Windows 8.1 tablet variant will have a listing price that starts at $1,800, while the Android variant will launch later in the year or the first quarter of next year, and does not yet have a determined price.

The two new products come in the midst of Zebra's new partner program launch, which will kick off in January 2016 and aims to drive revenue growth for distributors, independent software vendors, resellers and system integrators by offering an enhanced set of training initiatives, education and incentives, according to Zebra.

The unified channel program will roll out what Zebra sees as the best features of the company's existing program, PartnersFirst, a longstanding program already resonant within Zebra, and PartnerEmpower, a newer program inherited from Motorola Solutions' enterprise business.