Special Report

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The government market for rugged IT, estimated at $1.6 billion, is still growing, unlike some other segments of IT, but budget uncertainties associated with the military drawdown and sequestration point to an unsettled future. Government agencies are not likely to cancel procurements, but they might slow them down, spreading their spending over longer periods than initially intended.
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The rugged IT market is still heavily weighted towards larger form factors, but that could soon change, thanks to a broad push across government for commercial mobile technology. The widespread adoption of such devices as smartphones and tablets will soon be driving rugged technology strategies.
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Cost pressures and the need for faster technology development is leading government overall to adopt commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) technologies. Now many agencies no longer want to pay the recurring engineering fees that come with the traditional, customized method of developing rugged systems, preferring instead to ruggedize COTS-based systems. A growing belief in the worth of disposable COTS devices is leading to a “rugged enough” mindset.
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Solid state storage has always had in niche in rugged IT systems, but its market was limited by its higher prices, compared to traditional disk drives, and questions about its long-term durability. But recently prices have dropped dramatically, and people are beginning to pay more attention to its inherent advantages, including its high performance and its immunity to shock and vibration.
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Rugged devices were once seen as yesterday’s technology — bigger, more expensive and slower than the latest commercially available devices from companies such as Apple. For a while rugged IT vendors were able to narrow that gap, but now they are lagging again. The fear is that this will put rugged at a disadvantage when it comes to delivering the kind of experience users expect.
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