Panasonic To Launch ‘Toughbook’ Android Tablet

Panasonic is entering the tablet fray with a rugged device running Android OS, aimed at the enterprise market

Electronics giant Panasonic is expanding its Toughbook range of ruggedised laptops, with the addition of an Android-based tablet device, dubbed the Toughbook tablet.

The 10.1-inch slate is not being aimed at the consumer market, where the likes of Apple’s iPad dominates, but rather is geared towards the industrial and commercial sectors, where ruggedised laptop are traditionally used out in the field, or areas where traditional laptops or handsets are subject to tough environmental conditions.

According to Panasonic, the Toughbook is targeting “mission critical government personnel, highly mobile field forces, SMB’s looking for a competitive edge, security conscious IT managers and bottom-line focused CFOs.”

Daylight Screen

Precise details about the device, which is only expected to make an appearance later this year, remain sketchy at this stage.

What is known about the enterprise-grade tablet however is that its 10.1 inch XGA multi-touch display will not feature the usual glossy screen, which is often unreadable in outdoor environments.

Instead it will offer “a high brightness, daylight viewable screen so that mobile workers, in markets like field service, home healthcare and public safety, can easily see critical data and operate the device regardless of lighting conditions,” according Panasonic.

Another pointer to its intended core market is the addition of an active stylus, which is traditionally used on industry handsets when signing for a package. Indeed Panasonic admits that this option is to allow “mobile workers in sales, customer service and mobile point-of-sale environments to capture signatures on the devices.”

Other features of the device will mimic Panasonic’s existing Toughbook portfolio, by focusing on reliability and durability, even in extreme operating environments.

“The new Toughbook tablet will be no exception, offering durability and ingress protection consistent with its other fully-rugged devices,” it said.

Panasonic is also promising GPS and full-shift battery life, coupled with “professional-grade accessories and optional embedded 3G mobile broadband connectivity.”

The current crop of consumer tablets on the market focus largely on providing a superior entertainment experience, offering high resolution screens and advanced audio functionality. However there is a healthy genre of rugged tablet devices that runs in parallel, offering more practical options for enterprise customers requiring versatility and durability. Earlier this year, eWEEK Europe took a first look at Motion Computing’s 10.1-inch CL900 tablet, designed to fulfil the needs of engineers, utilities workers, and the aviation and healthcare industries.

These devices of course present something of a challenge for IT managers, who have to mitigate against the possible security risks. According to Panasonic, the new Toughbook tablet is being designed with “security embedded at the hardware level.”

Tablet Arrival

Speaking to eWEEK Europe UK, a Panasonic spokesman said that there is so far no announced release date for Europe, however in the United States it is expected to be released sometime in the fourth quarter of 2011.

The spokesman also confirmed there was no pricing information available at the time of writing. However it will be fair to expect that the enterprise device will cost more than the £400 to £600 average cost of the typical consumer tablet in this country.

That said, Panasonic told us that it is expecting to make another announcement after the summer, which should provide more details.