Tough Enough: Scenes From Panasonic's Toughbook Launch Aboard The USS Intrepid

All Aboard

Panasonic hosted an event on board the USS Intrepid in New York this week to show off its brand spankin' new Toughbook 31 and formally introduce Panasonic Solutions Company -- Panasonic's newly combined North American operations -- to an audience of about hundred customers, partners, media, analysts and business associates. Here's a look at some of the highlights from the evening.

Line 'Em Up

Big events mean big branding opportunities and Panasonic had its Toughbook team on hand to greet arrivals in front of the Intrepid museum and boarding area.


The theme of new Panasonic products like the Toughbook 31 is "because your job depends upon it" -- a reference to developing mission-critical technology solutions that serve demanding environments like the military, health care and field work.


Toughbook branding knows no bounds, and Panasonic execs ride in style.

Piece Of History

Also known as "The Fighting I," the USS Intrepid is one of the more than 20 Essex-class aircraft carriers used by the U.S. Navy during World War II, and during the war played a critical role in Pacific Theater operations. The Intrepid was eventually decommissioned in the mid-70s following use in the Vietnam War, and became the basis for the Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum in New York, located off West 46th Street on the Hudson River.

Mission Statement

Margo Armstrong, director of marketing for Panasonic Solutions Company, introduced the evening by reiterating Panasonic's promise to be the go-to provider of mission-critical technology.

Together We Can

Rance Poehler, president of Panasonic Solutions Company, explained how as of early April, Panasonic had consolidated its North American operations into one company to help better serve partners and get those partners easier access to a broader range of Panasonic gear, including displays, projectors and Toughbooks.

Combined Efforts

Panasonic needed to evolve from a products company to a solutions company, Poehler explained, where Panasonic VARs design solutions for customers that leverage many pieces of the portfolio. Panasonic's Arbitrator solution, for example, takes advantage of video capture, storage, transfer and video management, relying on several different pieces of Panasonic gear and relevant software to create a rugged mobile digital video system.

Four Days In April 2009

The event's keynote speaker was Richard Phillips, who was the captain of the cargo ship MV Maersk Alabama when a seizure attempt by Somali pirates was made in April 2009. Shortly after the pirate threat was identified, the destroyer the USS Bainbridge was dispatched to the southeastern Somalia coast to respond. A stand-off later ensued between the Bainbridge and a lifeboat from the Maersk Alabama, in which the Somali pirates had taken Phillips hostage.

Words To Live By

Phillips was eventually rescued after a few days of being held by the Somali pirates on the lifeboat. To the crowd at Panasonic's event, he recounted some important lessons about teamwork and confidence in tough situations.

"First, you are stronger than you know," Phillips said. "Second, the only time all is lost is when you choose to give up hope. Last, a dedicated motivated professional team can solve most any problems and overcome most any obstacle."

Teaming With Confidence

"These aren't just skills used around pirates on the seas, these are skills for life," Phillips continued, recounting his days spent on the lifeboat (pictured) and how he attempted to stay focused to counteract the "mind games" the pirates played with him.

He championed the U.S. naval forces who aided his rescue and the crew of the Maersk Alabama for staying organized throughout the ordeal.

"You're better off to face [things like] that with a well-trained, committed crew, than by yourself, alone," he said.


Jim Onolfo, the former CIO of Kraft Foods and other companies and now the Deputy Commissioner and CIO of the New York Police Department, took the stage to champion technology's use in crimefighting in major metropolitan areas. He would later test Panasonic's new Toughbook 31.

According to Onolfo, the NYPD employs more than 3,000 Toughbooks and relied on Panasonic's technology -- as a longtime customer -- to create and update its Real Time Crime Center (RTCC), a centralized technology center to provide comprehensive information, patterns and emerging crime issues to NYPD field officers and detectives. It's a 24/7 operation and first opened in July 2005.

Testing, Testing

Onolfo prepared to drop the Toughbook 31 from a height of roughly six feet: a light toss from the height of his head onto the floor below the stage platform. Panasonic's Poehler looks on at right.

Wait For It...

The closed Toughbook 31 landed with a loud pop on the floor below the podium and stage platform. Panasonic representatives moved to over to inspect for damages.

It's Good!

The Toughbook was alive and well. Poehler later showed a video indicating a test Panasonic had performed earlier in the day, dropping the Toughbook 31 from a height of 20 feet off one side of the Intrepid. There were probbaly a few bumps and bruises, but the Toughbook booted up no problem and had no noticeable damage, Poehler said.

"They just survive," he pronounced.

Oh, Right, The Specs

Panasonic's new Toughbook 31 is according to Poehler the "most powerful rugged notebook computer on the planet." It includes Intel's new Core i5 or i3 processor, an ATI Radeon HD 5650 card for 3-D graphics and GIS and has an IP65 rating for protection against water and dust.

Many of its specs go beyond MIL-SPC (military specifications under the U.S. Defense Standard), Poehler said, because Panasonic's "most demanding customers" need something tougher and more durable.

The Highlights Reel

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. Battery-wise, the 31's battery charges 47 percent faster than that of the Toughbook 31, and has an overall battery life of 7 hours. Each Toughbook 31 also provides Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n, Bluetooth v2.1 + EDR, and an option for WiMax capability and Gobi2000 mobile broadband from Qualcomm.

The Toughbook 31 is available through Panasonic VARs now, for an estimated street price of $3,799.

We're In Charge Here

Poehler, left, steals a quick break in the action with Sheila O'Neill, vice president of channel sales for Panasonic Solutions Company. In a later interview with CRN, both Poehler and O'Neill emphasized helping Panasonic VARs sell more of the Panasonic portfolio and build advanced solutions in areas such as video surveillance and health care.

Bigger, Better

With about 100 of its customers, partners and business associates in the room, Panasonic didn't waste the opportunity to show off other new-ish pieces of its portfolio. The biggest eye-catcher was naturally, Panasonic's 152-inch 4k 3D plasma TV, which the company introduced at CES back in January. Quipped one wiseacre observer, "Too bad there's nothing good to watch."

Healthy Returns

Another recent Toughbook addition is Panasonic's C1, which will be available in June. According to Panasonic, the C1, which it debuted at the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) conference in March, is the lightest 12.1" convertible tablet PC on the market and is good for deployments in health care, field services, sales and education. Of note its its triple hinge design -- the third hinge being what allows the screen to rotate into "tablet mode."