Panasonic Solutions Releases "Business-Rugged" Toughbook


The S9 features the Intel Core i5-520m vPro processor running at 2 GHz, RAM expandable to 6GB, a widescreen WXGA (1280 x 800) LCD display with LED backlighting, and up to 11 hours of battery life. It also comes with Windows 7, a 320GB shock-mounted flex-connect hard drive, HDMI and VGA outputs, and an optional fingerprint reader.

The new Toughbook S9 is a "business-rugged" version of the ultra-solid Panasonic laptop cased in magnesium alloy, not to be confused with the "semi-rugged" class for harsh environments. Both are sealed and spill resistant with flexible internal connectors, having been designed after fully-rugged laptops priced at up to $5000.

The Toughbook S9 includes a variety of embedded connectivity options: Wi-Fi from Intel Centrino Advanced-N 6200, Bluetooth, Gigabit Ethernet, and integrated WWAN /Gobi 2000 allowing the user to choose and switch between multiple networks.

Like other products in Panasonic's Toughbook line, the S9 is aimed at road warriors who travel often and require a PC that's resistant to damage.

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"The S9 is designed to expand usage of rugged computers in the executive suite," said Kyp Walls, director of product management at Panasonic Solutions, in an interview. "The lines between business-rugged and semi-rugged have been blurred," because Toughbooks for business usage, which make up 15 to 20% of all Toughbooks sold, are increasingly ruggedized--at the risk of marginalizing the semi-rugged class.

"It's worth spending a few hundred dollars up front to do what most people consider important work, to save yourself thousands on the back end," said Walls. "Most people accept that if you drop a machine it breaks. Our philosophy is the machine should at least survive predictable damage."

Walls also affirmed Panasonic Solutions' strong ties to the channel, citing the company's unique status as a "core manufacturer," meaning it builds all of its own components, in contrast to major OEMs such as HP and Dell.

"We don't think we'd be good at fulfillment," Walls said. "What we're good at is design and manufacture, which is a totally different area of expertise from distribution and fulfillment." For this reason, he said, 100% [we use 'percent'] of the company's products are sold through the channel.

"We have never sold a product directly," he said.

The Toughbook line consists of high-end "ruggedized" computers built to endure severe treatment from the elements and serve the mobile workforce, both in business and government--especially law enforcement and the military--at a significantly higher price than most laptops.

The estimated street price for the Toughbook S9 is $2499, according to Panasonic.