You don’t get to see the Panasonic Toughbooks in retail stores or have a chance to buy one. But you don’t need to get one to know why these heavy duty devices are lifesavers.
That’s because these rugged laptops are working behind the scenes, mainly in search and rescue or research operations. Just in the United States alone, the Toughbooks are mounted in 260 police vehicles, ready to be deployed into a mobile station when required. US agencies have favoured such rugged laptops, mainly because of their survival rates in tough operations.
Hide Harada, Director of IT Products Business Division (ITPBD), quoted a few examples over the years, which includes Hurricane Katrina that devastated New Orleans back in 2005. “Even if it is under rain or sun, it will still operate well without failure which does not disrupt field engineers’ work,” said Harada, who also added that Panasonic has also donated both the Toughbook and its rugged tablet series, the Toughpad, to aid in the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami.
Panasonic’s Toughbooks, however, aren’t just reserved for search and rescue operations. In the areas of research, it’s a resilient device that gets the job done too. “It can withstand extreme weather conditions such as in the snow or in the desert,” said Harada. He mentioned the use of these rugged devices for mountain climbing teams in Canada or South Pole, or even in aquatic expeditions.
Design-wise, these laptops aren’t anywhere near the thin and lightweight systems used by consumers. But like the universe, there’s a reason for these rugged design - other than actually housing impact-absorbing and water-sealing parts. “We believe that for a rugged body, the design converges to a rugged appearance,” said Harada. Makes sense, since the sturdy look gives users an added assurance that it’ll be able to withstand a few knocks and hits.
While the hardy laptops and tablets are using consumer-based operating systems such as Windows and Android, they’re less likely to be used by consumers. But you will spot them in retail centres as point-of-sales payment terminals.
Harada adds that security is the key focus for retail fronts, especially when it comes to creating a secure payment solution. Against Apple’s upcoming Pay system, Harada highlights that Apple’s system is still relatively simple, compared to Panasonic’s Android-powered devices which have its own security key within to secure the transactions.
For now, there are no plans to expand its product lineup beyond the notebook and tablet category. The only semblance of a consumer presence for the Panasonic laptops would be in Japan, which goes by the “Let’s note” series which takes on the “tough, lightweight and long battery life” mantra of its Toughbook series, said Harada.
Yet, the Japanese company is quite aware that the PC segment is shrinking in favour of its more compact tablet cousins. Harada notes that the tablet market will grow drastically in the next three to five years, but there’s a gap that needs to be filled. “Most tablets are consumer based, and we noticed that customers find it hard to get secure B2B tablet,” he said.
While this still doesn’t equate to you getting your hands on a durable Panasonic laptop or tablet from an electronics retail store, it means that there’s a likelihood that you’ll see more of them in your line of work. That is, if you’re in healthcare, shipping or emergency response agencies.
Still, one can always hope that you’ll be able to get your hands on these Panasonic Toughbooks that were made and tested in Japan.