Has the Aurora version of Collector been scheduled for Windows?

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08-23-2019 05:16 PM
RobertHarmon
New Contributor III

Now that the Aurora version of Collector is available for iOS and Android (beta) is there a timeline for the Windows' version?

Thanks,

Bob

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JeffShaner
Esri Regular Contributor

Hi Kristan,

We have not done a very good job of communicating our positioning on the Windows platform with our native runtime apps and I apologize for the frustration this has caused. To be frank, we have been struggling to determine the right path forward ourselves. Apologies again for this brain dump but I want to share where we are today and provide you with as much detail as I can. 

Some Background Info

Our core field apps, Collector, Explorer, Navigator, Workforce and Tracker are built using the native runtime SDKs for each platform (Swift for iOS, Kotlin for Android, .NET/UWP for Windows). We build our software this way so that we can squeeze out the best experience possible using the device OS you are investing in. Our developers are organized primarily by platform and language but our devs are pretty amazing and most can switch context and work on iOS or Android platforms. The rest of our product team (QA/doc and to some degree design) are agnostic of platform.

As you have mentioned above though, it has taken us 2 years to build the Aurora version of Collector on the iOS/Android platforms. 

What have we been doing on Windows?

Last year we built and released Explorer on the windows platform. Why Explorer and not Collector? For 2 reasons:

1. Customer requests. A number of our key sectors were asking for a Windows Mobile-based mapping solution that supports mounted in-vehicle Windows devices as well as tear away use in your hand tablets. Functionality needed to support all of the online/offline map viewing capabilities of Collector and provide the ability to redline/sketch on top of the map. 

2. Windows Mobile Hardware and development environments for Windows. We saw promise with the new Surface tablets and their ability to be used in the field. The cellular-enabled Surface Go tablet appeared to be a strong competitor to the 10inch iPad with built-in GPS. Microsoft promotes using UWP as their development environment for touch-screen tablets and our field apps are designed for tablet and smartphone form factors. It seemed like a good fit for us to design a hold in your hand and vehicle-mounted user experience and we could focus on map navigation, search and sketching to start with.

What about Collector?

Building the field data capture experience that Collector has and integrating with external GPS receivers on a Windows platform is a much higher bar. In the time we have built the Explorer app, we have been following the trends in development environments for the Windows platform and UWP has come into question, and then there is the market need for Collector on Windows too.

We monitor adoption by each platform as best we can. We use a combination of store metrics, login events to ArcGIS Online, and conversations with our sector sales team, support and directly with customers like yourself to make our decisions. 

What you see here is a sampling of login events (when someone logs into their organization) with Collector starting in January until now. Blue is the android platform, green is the iOS platform, and orange is the Windows platform. As you can see, iOS is quite dominant, Android is somewhat of a close second with Windows a very distant 3rd. Does it warrant continued investment in staffing a development team for the Windows platform? One that we struggle with. 

Collector login events

But it is just a single data point and not enough to make decisions from. In fact, over the course of the past 6 months we have seen a spike in interest for Windows devices in the field and that is quite telling. Perhaps it's due to change management where Windows 7 based devices are phased out and new Windows 10 devices are being phased in? When we ask customers some say they are moving away from Windows devices because they are too costly and then when we talk to other customers they say they are phasing out iOS devices to streamline costs and the organization wants to institute a one device policy.

Where do we go from here?

We are evaluating our path forward from a development and resources perspective. We want to talk to learn more about your needs on the Windows 10 platform to make sure that we are not missing important information as well. A while back we posted a blog article talking about our "pause" in development on Windows and requested customers email esriApps4Windows10@esri.com and provide us with additional details/engage in a dialog with you. We need your feedback and we want to know details on the devices you use, how many of them you have, how you use them (mounted or handheld), what workflows you are using them for, etc. 

Thank you.

Jeff

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13 Replies
LanceCole
MVP Regular Contributor

Robert Harmon 

Development is suppose to start in the second half of 2019 - Collector for ArcGIS - Releasing the Aurora Project. I have not seen anything yet for alpha or beta testing for Windows.  Android is still in beta.

JoshSaad
New Contributor II

Our building inspectors are looking to get new devices soon, and I'd rather they get Surface tablets than iPad Pros.  It would be good to know when the new version will be available on Windows so that we can decide which devices to purchase.

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LanceCole
MVP Regular Contributor

Josh,‌, 

In the interim, you can currently use Collector for ArcGIS on windows devices, it just is the "Classic" version.  You can download it from the Windows Store.  I use both iPad Pro and a Windows Surface Pro.  I definitely prefer the iPad for my daily field work.  

  1. The main reason is cellular connection, as unless you have a LTE model of a surface or also carry a HotSpot you do not have cellular connectivity.  It is very nice to be able to post your collector data real-time to your AGOL account.  This data can then be available for others to see and utilize without having to wait to Sync and the end of the day.  You also do not have to download your maps but have the option to do so in areas that you may not have cellular. 
  2. The sudo GPS in the surface is abysmal at best.  IDevices can be just as temperamental but typically are within 3-5 meters.
  3. Weight, there is a notable difference between caring around an iDevice vs a Surface for 8 hours a day.  
  4. It is also easier to manage the iDevice than the surface when using them in the field.  The case I have for my iPad has a hand grip on the back that is very comfortable to work with for an entire day.  
  5. Another factor is cost.  A standard iPad can be obtained for $300 for a previous release and a pro for $600.  A Windows Surface Pro LTE is going to run you $1200+ (prices based upon State contract pricing)
JoshSaad
New Contributor II

Thanks.  We're not interested in using Collector Classic.  We'd prefer using a Surface device, or a rugged Windows 10 laptop/tablet to have full Windows functionality for using enterprise apps in addition to doing field work.  Our inspectors would like a larger screen than the standard iPad 10", so we're looking into the 12.9" iPad Pro, which is $1,299.  That's a lot of money to sink on a tablet.

KristanPeters
New Contributor II

Can someone from Esri please have the courtesy to update the community with a reply? We have purchased expensive windows 10 tablets with cm accurate GPS on the basis that Aurora Windows 10 version of collector is going to be developed. We also have expensive Microsoft architecture that we are not leveraging as a result.  2 years later an still NOTHING, not even on the radar! Please explain?

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JeffShaner
Esri Regular Contributor

Hi Kristan,

We have not done a very good job of communicating our positioning on the Windows platform with our native runtime apps and I apologize for the frustration this has caused. To be frank, we have been struggling to determine the right path forward ourselves. Apologies again for this brain dump but I want to share where we are today and provide you with as much detail as I can. 

Some Background Info

Our core field apps, Collector, Explorer, Navigator, Workforce and Tracker are built using the native runtime SDKs for each platform (Swift for iOS, Kotlin for Android, .NET/UWP for Windows). We build our software this way so that we can squeeze out the best experience possible using the device OS you are investing in. Our developers are organized primarily by platform and language but our devs are pretty amazing and most can switch context and work on iOS or Android platforms. The rest of our product team (QA/doc and to some degree design) are agnostic of platform.

As you have mentioned above though, it has taken us 2 years to build the Aurora version of Collector on the iOS/Android platforms. 

What have we been doing on Windows?

Last year we built and released Explorer on the windows platform. Why Explorer and not Collector? For 2 reasons:

1. Customer requests. A number of our key sectors were asking for a Windows Mobile-based mapping solution that supports mounted in-vehicle Windows devices as well as tear away use in your hand tablets. Functionality needed to support all of the online/offline map viewing capabilities of Collector and provide the ability to redline/sketch on top of the map. 

2. Windows Mobile Hardware and development environments for Windows. We saw promise with the new Surface tablets and their ability to be used in the field. The cellular-enabled Surface Go tablet appeared to be a strong competitor to the 10inch iPad with built-in GPS. Microsoft promotes using UWP as their development environment for touch-screen tablets and our field apps are designed for tablet and smartphone form factors. It seemed like a good fit for us to design a hold in your hand and vehicle-mounted user experience and we could focus on map navigation, search and sketching to start with.

What about Collector?

Building the field data capture experience that Collector has and integrating with external GPS receivers on a Windows platform is a much higher bar. In the time we have built the Explorer app, we have been following the trends in development environments for the Windows platform and UWP has come into question, and then there is the market need for Collector on Windows too.

We monitor adoption by each platform as best we can. We use a combination of store metrics, login events to ArcGIS Online, and conversations with our sector sales team, support and directly with customers like yourself to make our decisions. 

What you see here is a sampling of login events (when someone logs into their organization) with Collector starting in January until now. Blue is the android platform, green is the iOS platform, and orange is the Windows platform. As you can see, iOS is quite dominant, Android is somewhat of a close second with Windows a very distant 3rd. Does it warrant continued investment in staffing a development team for the Windows platform? One that we struggle with. 

Collector login events

But it is just a single data point and not enough to make decisions from. In fact, over the course of the past 6 months we have seen a spike in interest for Windows devices in the field and that is quite telling. Perhaps it's due to change management where Windows 7 based devices are phased out and new Windows 10 devices are being phased in? When we ask customers some say they are moving away from Windows devices because they are too costly and then when we talk to other customers they say they are phasing out iOS devices to streamline costs and the organization wants to institute a one device policy.

Where do we go from here?

We are evaluating our path forward from a development and resources perspective. We want to talk to learn more about your needs on the Windows 10 platform to make sure that we are not missing important information as well. A while back we posted a blog article talking about our "pause" in development on Windows and requested customers email esriApps4Windows10@esri.com and provide us with additional details/engage in a dialog with you. We need your feedback and we want to know details on the devices you use, how many of them you have, how you use them (mounted or handheld), what workflows you are using them for, etc. 

Thank you.

Jeff

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KristanPeters
New Contributor II

Thanks Jeff,

Really appreciate the considered response and it all makes sense what you say.

Firstly, what you have done with collector in iOS is fantastic, and reason for continued interest from us.

Secondly, we are but a drop in the ocean when it comes to your customer base (handful of devices), but I think our use case would apply to much larger organizations equally or even more so.

A few comments:

A windows version not being available for the new collector will be affecting your metrics of uptake, as the new collector is so much better than the old collector (I actually got out the new collector on my phone whilst using classic the other day, and the experience is like night and day). Collector Classic also takes a lot more maintenance and setup for collection which can’t be overlooked.

Like you mention, many organizations are depreciating their older windows devices which originally ran (7/8 even 10), these were typically only for data collection. If they are anything like us we are replacing our Panasonic Toughpad devices with Getac 110 which doubles as the users daily computer, RFID scanner, and in car/machine navigation so there is way more to consider than just a collection device. We are running a full Microsoft ERP and security environment, and by doing this we reduce the user devices to one plus their phone (which is BYOD so just the one company device).

As you point out, we appreciate the issue with Windows 10 and external GPS devices. Why this doesn’t concern Microsoft in a connected world is beyond me?

Development environment; you are not alone here, we have the same issue with DJI Drones not developing a windows app, so users are forced to use their phone when we have state of the art tablet that could be used instead. Again, something Microsoft needs to fix if they are to claw back market share.

So I think the real elephant in the room is not really collector related, but how close you are to resolving some of the development issues with Microsoft.

Please just keep us updated, as I don’t think it would be realistic to produce a timeline until some of these things are sorted.

Thanks again for the considered reply, its greatly appreciated.

Kind regards,

Kristan

ToddHalvorson
New Contributor II

Thought I would chime is on this topic.  The comment regarding seeing the reason to seeing a recent uptick in Windows downloads is correct I think. I work with over 50 muni's through my AEC firm mostly with public works and water utilities and quite a few are having to upgrade Win 7 machines to Win 10 internally and for systems functions.  Along side of that many of the SCADA systems function on Win 10 and to support those needs clients are buying Surface tablets for on call staff.  The other impacts are simply limits for many on machine availability so a laptop is chosen to work at the office or a vehicle and gets pulled into Collector usage.

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RobertPhillips
Occasional Contributor III

I would also like to chime in on this as well. Our field crews consist of 4 teams and each team has one toughpad, which also has a built in dedicated GPS unit, that they use to collect data for us using collector. The toughpads have Windows 10 OS on them. We went with Windows 10 simply because our IT group said that Windows 10 devices are easier to secure, troubleshoot, update, and pretty much just about everything else. We had asked about the other OS devices and the issues they had with those is that troubleshooting iOS devices are difficult, especially if there are account issues, repairs are difficult due to cost and that only Apple or any of their licensed repairers can fix them. The issues they have with Android are primarily due to the security and lack of updates.

The benefits of having Windows 10 is that it is easier to update and secure a Windows 10 device, making adjustments to the toughpad itself is relatively easy, and it is also easier to troubleshoot. The other benefit with having Collector on Windows 10 is that I can install the application onto my work computer and, if needed, make changes to the edits that our crews make out in the field without having to open another application.

I know that  IOS and Android Devices have a larger user base with mostly all having use of those operating systems/devices which is why most tend to stick with supporting those devices.

Despite that, and seeing that Windows 10 devices may also be relatively supported, given that there is greater flexibility with Windows it wouldn't hurt per-say to have some kind of application created for those devices.