Wireless endurance: Aava Mobile’s tablets start shipping in May 2014

It’s a little unsettling watching someone toss a brand new Windows tablet carelessly on the office floor, and COO Kari Räisänen knows this. As a sales pitch, it sticks in your mind. “It’s Gorilla Glass 3, 1.3 mm thick, which is great for withstanding hits, and we eliminated the bending of the glass by employing a magnesium cover, which simply doesn’t bend. We test it 18 times from one meter by default – until now nothing has been produced that’s been accomplished with such a sleek design. With the additional exterior cover, we can achieve military-level endurance on drop resistance, from 1.8m. We could make it even more rugged and robust, but there’s practicality involved – the weight and size would increase, not to mention the price.” Thankfully, he doesn’t toss the tablet again, but instead explains what’s going on.

“When you look at the tablet market today, there’s basically two choices: Samsung and Apple. That’s on the consumer side, and that’s not for us – with those two players, the competition is hard enough and the marketing effort would be huge. But on the professional side, there’s the industrial point-of-sales and the health care side as the key streams. They’re still using desktop and laptop PCs, and are actively looking into more mobile alternatives that would still run their current software. In healthcare, there are iPads but the custom software isn’t that easy to integrate into the device.” Their solution was simple: create a robust tablet that runs Windows – not a mobile version but 8.1, the current version in new laptops and desktops. The processor is Intel’s first tablet-oriented platform, which was initially distributed to only four OEMs, three of which are globally-known household names. The fourth was Aava Mobile.

“Intel’s interest is to get their processor everywhere, not just in general tablets for consumers, but everywhere, including professional use.” The result is a rugged device that withstands dust, dirt and water, with a platform that Aava regards as a winner: It’s powerful yet doesn’t sap the battery, and it’s capable of running full Windows 8.1 without slowing down. Although Windows is behind Android and iOS in the consumer market due to the lack of apps in its store, the story is totally different regarding the professional market, where software is usually custom-made for the company, and Windows is still the de facto operating system.

The Aava Mobile tablet has a back cover which is also watertight, but when you take it off the device is easily customizable. The versatility of the device is immediately apparent: USB-type connections become visible under another cover, the back cover can be replaced with a point-of-sales hub for a card swiper or barcode reader, for example, and the client can order further add-on design from either Aava or a third partner of its choice. “For instance, an appliance store realized that regarding bigger purchases, a major percentage of purchase decisions got lost on the way to the counter – the customer got cold feet and didn’t buy the product. So, they want a tablet for extending the point-of-sale to where the product is located. Swipe a card, tap the price, print the receipt, and the purchase is made in the aisle instead of at the cash desk, some fifteen minutes ahead.” It’s easy to see why stores are interested in this.

With such a scale of customization and customer need for the device, one might think that Aava Mobile would be interested in becoming an add-on seller, with the tablet as the catch. But Räisänen thinks otherwise. “With 70 people working on R&D and design, we’re focusing on making the best possible tablet for the customer need. We’re going to let others take care of the possible additions into the tablet. However, we do have additions that make the device itself easier to use, but it’s not user specific – we’re talking about a multiple battery charger and a desk stand with more ports, LAN network jack, more USB ports, things like that. We’re very device-oriented.”

Aava Mobile’s first shipments are fast approaching – they are taking place at the end of May. “At the moment – even with the careful first tier of shipments – we’re very happy with the results. We’ve exceeded the expectations of the first tier, and we’re expecting feedback from the customers and resellers to be positive, which could mean we’ll be looking at upscaling”, says Räisänen. “And if the customer somehow manages to break this, we’ve already informed the distributors that we want to know how they did it.”