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Panasonic quietly debuts Toughbook tablet

27 Jul 12

Probably the most exciting device at Panasonic’s recent Auckland roadshow was also the smallest. Its Toughbook tablet is a 10.1-inch Android-powered device which delivers water & dust resistance, viewability-in-the-sun and the ability to handle knocks & drops which makes Toughbooks famous.

Panasonic product manager Bill Adams gave us the specifications:

· 1GB RAM

· 16GB storage (upgradable with microSD port)

· 1.2GHz dual core processor

· Separate FIPS security processor

· 3G, GPS, HDMI port, WiFi 802.11a/b/g/n USB port, 3.5mm audio jack, docking interconnector

· IP65 and MIL810G rated

· 10 hour battery life, user replaceable battery

· 500NIT brightness screen (viewable in sunshine)

· 5MP rear camera, 3MP front

Adams says that while the iPad created the market, it is in effect a consumer gadget not designed to go out the front door. "The Toughbook tablet is fully rugged – it can handle sunshine, rain, dust, heat and cold. It isn’t a commodity item and is unlikely to be on sale in the retail channel.”

That much is reflected in an anticipated retail price of ‘sub $2000’.

Sole New Zealand Toughbook distributor Comworth was on hand at the roadshow. Product manager Darryn Smith, said the appeal of lightweight, rugged computing solutions is obvious. "iPads and other ‘consumer’ type tablets are awesome devices, there’s no question about that. However, they aren’t built to be used in the types of environments which are experienced by all kinds of field workers.”

Additionally, Smith says there are issues of manageability and security which are of considerable interest to IT managers. "Consumer tablets aren’t made with provision for integration into the corporate network. Sure it can be done, but it isn’t easy or practical in most instances.”

While the Toughbook tablet on show at the Panasonic roadshow delivered the ‘look’ of a tough tablet in spades, the internals and screen were nothing to write home about – but that’s because it is in effect a mock-up. "The production versions will look the same, but the insides will be substantially improved. Things like a multi-core, 1.2 GHz processor can be expected, and the latest Android operating system [Ice Cream Sandwich],” Adams says.

With Windows 8 on the horizon, he confirms that the Toughbook tablet will incorporate Microsoft’s software, but that’s only expected in 2013.

Meanwhile, the Panasonic Android Toughbook tablet should hit New Zealand shores by the fourth quarter of this year.

What’s your position on a tough tablet? Will the Windows 8 version have more appeal than the Android device? Would your business pay around $2,000 for a device capable of handling the great outdoors? Share your comments below.

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