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By Jeffrey Schwartz
The new hardware comes as Panasonic consolidates its rugged portfolio of mobile devices, tablets and laptop PCs under the Toughbook brand. Until now, the company’s handheld devices and tablets were called Toughpads, while its rugged laptops are known as Toughbooks. Panasonic is re-branding the Toughpads as Toughbooks.
“Toughbook is the brand customers know and recognize, so why not leverage that as opposed to muddying the waters?” said Bob O’Donnell, chief analyst with Technalysis, during an interview last week at a New York City launch event for the new Android-based devices.
Panasonic officials at that event made no advance mention of this week’s updated Windows tablets, the FZ-G1 and FZ-M1, among the first that the company has moved from the Toughpad to Toughbook brand.
Both of the Windows 10 Pro systems, priced at $2,799 and $2,749, respectively, have newer processors, Intel’s 7th Generation Core i5-7300 vPro in the G1, and an i5-7Y57 vPro in the M1. They both have 8GB of RAM and 256GB SSDs. The M1 has a MIPI 8MP camera and the G1 comes with a USB camera.
“They’re more straightforward speed bumps,” O’Donnell said of the new Windows tablets. Besides the CPU boosts, the G1 now has a new infrared sensor that enables Windows Hello authentication, support for simultaneous GPS and 4G LTE Advanced data. The M1 has a new MIPI 8MP camera and supports a hot-swappable battery.
Meanwhile, last week’s three new Android devices are all based on the latest version of the operating system, Oreo (8.1), and are powered by the most current Qualcomm Snapdragon processors. One of the handhelds, the Toughbook N1, is a refreshed version from an earlier iteration launched early last year.
The Toughbook T1 is a new 5-inch handheld with a thinner form-factor and a more cosmetically appealing design. It’s also lighter than the N1, targeted at workers in retail, warehouses and for transportation and logistics employees. The T1 has the same MIL specs as the N1 and has a battery that can be swapped while in use. It’s available in Wi-Fi-only configurations or with support for data service on Verizon, AT&T and Panasonic’s new P. 180 dedicated network.
Panasonic’s new 7-inch tablet, the L1, has an integrated barcode reader that the company said meets MIL-STD-810G standards and is rated IP65/67. It also has a swappable battery and is available with the same connectivity options.
Panasonic officials said during last week’s event that its new Android portfolio will appeal to organizations with aging Windows CE-based devices that don’t want to move their field service workers to Windows 10-based hardware.
“IT managers say they want to migrate to Android,” said Dan Diliberti, Panasonic’s head of mobility products and market strategy, speaking at the event. Denis Petrov, CEO of IDSCan.net, a New Orleans ISV and mobile-systems reseller, which just added Panasonic devices to its lineup of rugged systems, agreed.
“The future of Windows mobile applications is Android,” Petrov said. “There are no questions about it.”
Some partners don’t see it that way. One example is Panasonic partner Geophysical Survey Systems Inc. (GSSI), a supplier of ground-penetrating radar (GPR) systems that are used to survey roadways and open land to discover and document any cabling and piping below the surface.
“Windows is where we typically are,” said Jami Harmon, GSSI’s marketing operations manager. “That’s our strength; that’s where we’re really comfortable.”