updated 02:20 pm EDT, Thu June 16, 2011
Panasonic ToughBook Android tablet unveiled
Panasonic officially launched itself into the mobile tablet arena on Thursday by unveiling a Toughbook tablet based on Android. The 10-inch, 1024x768 slate would try to cover a perceived gap by tackling both the durability and security that tablets like the iPad don't have. It would use a matte, outdoor-friendly display, a shock-resistant shell and a pen for shops and others that need handwritten input.
Little else was mentioned of what was inside, but it would have true GPS, "full-shift" battery life, and the option of 3G or 4G for getting online. Pro accessories would arrive along with the tablet itself. Panasonic's imagery shows stock Android 2.2, though the size could lead the company to move to Android 3.1 or Ice Cream Sandwich. Special software to tighten the security is likely given Android's limited enterprise-grade protection.
A formal launch isn't expected until sometime in the fall.
The entry is Panasonic's first of its kind to drop a Microsoft OS. It's not new to the category but has been relying on Intel-based Windows slates like the CF-U1 that are usually relegated to very small niches such as warehouse workers. Its design would be thinner and possibly lighter than these while also lasting much longer on battery and supporting use of finger touch.
A Toughbook tablet would effectively be an attempt to squeeze Apple in the corporate and government worlds. iPads are in testing or active use in 75 percent of the Fortune 500 and have also been pushing into government use. Panasonic's effort would potentially appeal to the military and others that need tough systems but also stores and others that might want a mobile OS but still want some of the pro features they saw in Windows CE or desktop Windows tablets.