Panasonic Gets Tougher: Meaty Toughbook 31 Comes Ashore

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Among other highlights, Toughbook 31, a sixth-generation notebook for Panasonic Solutions Company, includes Intel's new Core i5 or i3 processor, an ATI Radeon HD 5650 card for 3-D graphics and GIS, protection from drops of up to 6 feet, plus an IP65 rating for protection against water and dust.

Poehler and the Panasonic Solutions Company team debuted the new Toughbook aboard the USS Intrepid at an event in New York Tuesday evening that also included Intel, several Panasonic partners, and speakers Richard Phillips, who was captain of the MV Maersk Alabama when it was attacked by Somali pirates in April 2009, and Jim Onolfo, deputy commissioner and CIO of the New York Police Department.

Panasonic has been building ruggedized devices since 1993, Poehler said, and its commitment to continuous improvement has gained the company a 69 percent market share in rugged computers.

"We have defended against those companies that challenged us and continue to grow quarter over quarter," he said. "That's a big tribute to our customers and our partners."

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It isn't enough for rugged notebooks to pass basic MIL-SPEC (military specifications under the United States Defense Standard) anymore, Poehler said, and Panasonic has moved way beyond the closed, 3-foot drop survival threshold for its notebooks that many manufacturers use as the standard. The Toughbook 31, he said, can survive drops of up to 6 feet.

"They just survive," he said.

Additional highlights of the Toughbook 31 include a 13.1-inch XGA LCD touch screen with a screen brightness ranging from 1,100 nits to as low as 2 nits, and a battery that charges 47 percent faster than the Toughbook 30, with an overall battery life of 7 hours. Each Toughbook 31 offers Wi-Fi 802.11n a/b/g/n, Bluetooth v2.1 + EDR with an option for WiMax capability and Gobi2000 mobile broadband from Qualcomm. Options include a built-in Webcam.

The device comes with a three-year limited warranty and will be available through Panasonic VARs for $3,799 starting Wednesday.

The Intrepid event also served as a coming out party of sorts for the Panasonic Solutions Company. In early April, Panasonic unveiled plans to consolidate several of its North American operations to make the wider Panasonic portfolio -- including Toughbooks, projectors and displays -- more easily available to Panasonic VARs.

The change also allows VARs to source Panasonic products through distributors such as Ingram Micro, Tech Data and Synnex rather than having to deal with previously individual Panasonic units.

The move reflects Panasonic better meeting the demands of its reseller partners and customers, Poehler said.

"We want to create end-to-end solutions. Our belief is that customers want more from us than products," Poehler said. "The days of [customers] having bigger IT organizations are limited in scope. We were thinking about that in terms of the solutions and support we can provide.

"We believe all of our reseller and integrator partners, too, are part of our ecosystem to provide these solutions," he added.