updated 12:05 pm EDT, Tue September 26, 2006
Ruggedized laptops are relatively commonplace. General Dynamics, Panasonic, and Twinhead already ship portables capable of surviving extremely harsh conditions. Even so, none of these system builders have adapted this durability to the newer ultra-mobile PC format - a design arguably better suited to soldiers in the field or workers in hazardous conditions. Specialist electronics company Black Diamond has took it upon themselves to release the first rugged UMPC, named the SwitchBack. Its computing features are modest by ruggedized and UMPC standards with only a 1GHz Celeron, a 40GB hard drive, and a 5.6-inch touchscreen as standard. Where it excels is its suitability in areas where accessories or repairs may be impractical. Alongside a shockproof case, the SwitchBack has a replaceable hard drive and can also mount attachments that add backups or extra features: examples given by the company include a breathalyzer, a two-way satellite radio, or even an entire second system that can run a separate operating system such as Linux or Windows CE. Pricing for the SwitchBack is handled on a case-by-case basis, according to Black Diamond, but models running Windows XP will ship by the end of 2006 with others arriving in spring 2007.