What happened to my rugged handheld manufacturer?

Rugged device manufacturers are disappearing.

They are consolidating. They are dissolving. And they are tossing around customers in the process.

One industry report estimated the global rugged handheld device market will grow nearly 6 percent between 2017 and 2021, or by more than $1.2 billion. Despite the growth, consumers are seeing fewer options, less competition, and dwindling support for millions of dollars in products.

“What good is a device that is built to last – devices that are billed as rugged and durable – if the company that supports the product doesn’t last?” said Nate Holman, Juniper Systems’ vice president of sales and marketing. “There’s more to technology than product specs. It takes a good company capable of making long-term commitments and assurances to its customers to make a product truly successful.”

Holman said customers are often the losers with market acquisitions. Points of contact change, institutional knowledge and support vanish for new and old customers, and products built into many companies’ workflows disappear.

“Industry landscapes change. Markets evolve, technology advances, and customer needs shift,” Holman said. “However, lots of customers in this industry are feeling pains from whiplash.”

In the past 10 years, the number of name-brand rugged handheld manufacturers has shrunk. Larger companies purchased or merged manufacturers to acquire intellectual property and remove competitors. At the same time, devices from Asia have entered the market without repair centers, service centers, or customer support.


Key industry moments

  • Tripod Data Systems purchased by Trimble in 2000, production shipped away from the United States
  • DAP Technologies discontinued rugged hardware products
  • Dolphin purchased by Honeywell
  • Intermec purchased by Honeywell in 2013
  • Symbol Technologies purchased by Motorola, eventually sold to Zebra Technologies in 2014
  • Motion Computing purchased by XPLORE in 2015
  • XPLORE purchased by Zebra in 2018

“Very few manufacturers are still building their own products, and that’s why Juniper Systems is quite unique,” Juniper Systems chief technology officer Gary Spence said. “We still design and assemble our products in the United States, fully supporting them in-house with our own customer support and service centers.”

“It takes a long time to really learn how to design rugged products and understand what works and what doesn’t, which is why tenured brands are so critical to this market,” he added. “There’s a difference between what Juniper Systems calls rugged and what the rest of the world calls rugged.”

Juniper Systems, founded in 1993, announced Sept. 10 a second consecutive year of double-digit growth. Holman said the company’s growth is a testament to its products and business structure.

Juniper Systems is privately held, family- and employee-owned, and built around career employees.

“While other manufacturers might come and go, we built this company to stick around; that’s important to us and our customers,” Holman said.


To learn more about Juniper Systems and its products contact us here. Or, visit us online here.

2 Comments

  1. I couldn’t agree more. Add to that Symbol buying Telxon (1998), Itronix buying Husky (2000), Psion buying Tektronix (2000), DRS buying WalkAbout (2005), General Dynamics buying Itronix ((2005), Finmeccanica buying DRS (2008), Advantec buying DLoG (2010), Honeywell buying Metrologic (2008), Honeywell buying LXE (2011), Motorola Solutions buying Psion (2012), AMREL getting out of the business (2017), and that’s just the more notable ones. Sometimes these deals work out from a business perspective, sometimes not so much. For customers, it’s rarely a good thing.

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