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Motorola punts Android into the enterprise

£1,000 fondleslab for shopkeepers, not shoppers

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Motorola Solutions, the bit of Motorola that makes money and wasn't bought by Google, has nonetheless launched an Android tablet – but one aimed at retailers, not retail.

The ET1 is a 7in tablet that is guaranteed against a 1.2-metre drop onto concrete, sealed against moisture and has a hot-swappable battery – though out of the box it won't scream when it's dropped.

We mention the screaming because the last device to come out of Motorola Solutions did just that. But the MC9500 also ran Windows Mobile and cost twice what the new tablet does, so this isn't quite the same beast.

The ET1 is thicker than most tablets, and wider too – though we're told that's to avoid one's thumb covering the screen while it's in use. Front and back cameras, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, but no cellular capability as this device isn't intended to leave the shop floor.

What it does have is a whole lot of additional buttons, three programmable switches on the front, two on the back and two on the shoulder, which can activate the camera/barcode reader or put the device into "battery swap mode" – things Microsoft would never allow on a Windows Phone device.

But despite our pushing, Motorola won't say anything unsupportive of Microsoft's efforts. The company still has a load of Windows Mobile and Windows CE devices, both in the field and on sale, and tells us it is still working closely with Redmond on other devices for vertical markets.

Which is what the ET1 is for, and why it uses Android 2.3 rather than the tablet-orientated Honeycomb: stability over interface improvements that the end user, locked into their running enterprise apps, will never see. Motorola has even stuck battery and connection indicators outside the screen in case the application removes the status bar.

To manage the platform diversity in the 'Solutions portfolio, Motorola will provide the ET1 with its own web browser, which it claims is fully HTML 5 compatible. The (unoriginal) idea is to make HTML 5 the development platform across the different operating systems, branding it RhoElements, with the Motorola-supplied browser ensuring compatibility.

The ET1 will sell for $1,595, but Motorola isn't expecting anyone to pay that much as bulk orders will bring the price down to $1,000 or so. ®

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