Zebra introduces next generation of Android rugged enterprise mobile computer with MC9300

In addition to this new modern flagship model of the MC9000 series, Zebra announces a new TC8300 touch computer and ATR7000 RTLS reader.

The MC9300

Zebra Technologies has announced the ultra-rugged Android-based MC9300 mobile computer, its next evolution of the MC9000 series, and the top of its line. It also announced the new TC8300 touch computer and ATR7000 RTLS reader at the same time.

“This is a ground-up reimagination of the rugged mobile computer,” said Darren Koffer, director of product portfolio management, mobile computing at Zebra Technologies. “The form factor has remained unchanged since its 2003 release. Its DNA is baked into the past, and it is an iconic product. However, we have completely refreshed the architecture and extended the capabilities of Android.”

Vendors throughout the mobile computing space have been adapting to upcoming end-of-lifing of Windows on these devices in 2020 and 2021. Zebra has had a first-mover advantage in the Android space, however, which they are looking to extend with the MC9300.

“The world of Android makes us look at business through a different lens,” Koffer said. “In a Microsoft world, the OS was not as volatile in terms of rate of change, which is why you have some customers still running old CE devices. But the merging of consumer and enterprise in the OS led to us bringing Android into the enterprise. We were the first to do this in 2011, and we got it right. We saw that fork in the road and were able to correct easily. We have developed a close relationship with Google, and have been a leader in driving thought leadership in this area. As a result, customers now feel comfortable in Android as an OS to deploy business critical applications.”

The MC9300 is specifically designed for challenging environments in warehouses, manufacturing, logistics and back-of-store retail environments. Koffer said the changes with the MC9300 go well beyond expected table stakes, and enhance the user’s ability to navigate around the keypad.

“The MC9300, like the MC9000, are both gun-based devices, but the MC9300 feels different,” he stated. “There is a significant different in user experience in terms of the display. The old one had a 3.7” display. This one has a 4.3” display with Gorilla Glass. The new one also has high resolution VGA, for better readability in a dark environment.” It also includes the latest Qualcomm chipset.

The MC9300’s components have also been upgraded over its predecessor.

“Both have a physical keyboard, but the new one has improved wearability and durability,” Koffer indicated. “The backlight has been improved. So has the feel of the device of the device in the hand, which is important when you are using it for 8-10 hours in a single shift. The enhancements are in terms of the centre of gravity, the improved ergonomics, and the way it feels in the hand. There is a higher comfort level where the fingers reside. It also still lets you use heavy gloves.”

These devices are designed for long-life because that is how they are typically used.

“Unlike other verticals, customers that deploy these keep these assets the longest, so we plan for five years of production life and five years of post-production support,” Koffer indicated. “Customers take them to the extreme, because applications used in these kind of devices change very slowly.”

New capabilities have been added to advance the device’s core capabilities around inventory management, receiving/put-away, returns processing, cross docking, quality control, parts tracking and price audit applications.

“Our NFC technology provides easy pairing to peripherals, so they don’t have to go through an application to pair,” Koffer said. “Our Haptic technology and its vibrator feature is new for us in the gun form factor. We also now have both rear and front facing cameras. Before you needed a secondary camera for front-facing. Now the cameras are like they are on a smartphone. On these devices, front facing isn’t used for video or Skype calls, but it does have some uses, like biometric credentials.”

The battery pack has a much higher capacity, reflecting continual improvements in battery cell technology.

“Its run time is now up one and a half times over what it was before, so it can clearly last a full shift plus,” Koffer indicated.

The scanning technology has been upgraded, to be able to read direct part marks, dot peen and laser-etched barcodes on any surface, to as far as 70 feet away.

“We now have the ability with our highly optimized scan engine system that let us read small bar codes on surfaces like shiny metal services, both in the MC9300 and in the new TC8300 touch computer, as well,” Koffer said. “We have also improved functionality in high condensation environments, like meat packing plants, or pharma, with chilled environments, and for cold-storage environments, one model has a system of heaters and a freezer-rated battery.”

The TC8300

Zebra’s Mobility DNA suite of end-user applications, application development tools and utilities  is the company’s own IP that transforms Android into an enterprise-ready OS, and enhancements have been made there as well.

“The software services have been able to track a device, but now the user can also be tracked on the MC9300,” Koffer said. “Articial intelligence capabilities let you do things, like can a SKU in a retail environment and see how many are in the back, where they are elsewhere, or in the supply chain.”

A Class 1 Division 2 model for use in hazardous locations is also available.

“This C1D2 version can be used in hazardous environments to remove the fear of causing catastophes,” Koffer noted.

While the MC9300 is the headliner here, Zebra introduced two other devices as well.

“The new TC8300 touch computer is an all-touch version of the MC9300,” Koffer indicated, “It has the same architecture and form factor.” Zebra thinks the all-touch model will be particularly popular in augmented-reality based applications.

“The ATR7000 RTLS reader identifies and analyzes the locations of passive RFID tags to provide real-time asset availability information,” Koffer added.  It is the first solution of its kind.” Zebra says that the ATR7000 covers up to double the area of traditional readers, which effectively cuts the number of readers and hardware costs in half.

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