Just before I left CES this week, I attended a tablet line launch by Panasonic. It was the only vendor I saw at the show that appeared to be pulling back from a blind rush at the consumer and taking a business focus on the new tablet line it launched at CES. Its opening salvo seemed to be that the tablet you have today is crap.
Your Current Tablet Is Crap
The opening video was a domino line of tablets from other manufactures falling over and breaking, while the ToughPad, Panasonic’s product, held strong. In the presentation, a story that I think most of us have seen play out with a smartphone or tablet was shared. This was of some poor sap coming to Las Vegas and dropping his tablet as he went through a revolving door, which reduced said tablet to its components, kind of like putting one in a blender. Most tablets and smartphones won’t survive if dropped, which is why many of us put ours in protective carry cases.
I know in my own case that when I’m traveling I live with my tablet. Were it to be broken, I’d be a bit lost. It is what keeps me entertained on planes and while waiting (something that happens a lot when I’m traveling), and it is what I use to relax in my hotel room. A broken tablet would likely ruin my trip, particularly if I was on vacation.
The tablet, while inexpensive, doesn’t work outside and I know that I wouldn’t expect a great deal of help if I had a problem and called support. My tablet, like most, was designed to be pretty and inexpensive but there is a high probability it wouldn’t be there if I ever really needed it.
It is against that value proposition that Panasonic’s three ToughPads were created. It has had a 10-inch tablet in market since last year and joining it at CES is a 7-inch tablet, which also runs Android, and a 10-inch Windows 8 ToughPad. Each of these will survive a drop from at least 4 feet (this is a military specification test, which tends to be very conservative), have outdoor viewable screens, full pots, and security features that are tied to their medical, government, military, law enforcement, and field primary use cases.
In short, this line of products is for people for whom tablets are a critical part of their jobs - folks who operate outside in harsh, including subzero, temperatures and who aren’t just interested in a toy. These are tools. Or, if your job and/or life depends on a tablet working, the ToughPad would be your choice. They are surrounded by services local to markets, so if you call for help, you typically get someone in country in many parts of the world and especially in the U.S.
As a result, these aren’t cheap. They start at the low $1,000s for the Android products and drift to the mid $2,000s for the Windows product. But given that for their target markets a tablet failure could cost millions on an oil field if a broken pipe was caught and not communicated fully timely, or where in police, military, or medical use a tablet could cost a life, having one that was far closer to being invulnerable has an extremely high value as well.
Wrapping Up: The Lifesaving Business Tablet Line
I don’t expect a lot of consumers will buy one of these. To open up that market, they’d need graphite or metal finishes or something that made these products look as expensive as they are. But if you have a need for a tablet that is tied to job security or someone’s (including your own) life, there really is no other tablet line currently in market that is at the same level as Panasonic’s. I’m a big fan of differentiation and, for business, we need things that work, that are secure, that are backed by support professionals who speak our language, and that can survive the environments that employees have to work in. That’s the ToughBook market, and now it has a ToughPad sibling line.
We live in a hostile world. It is nice that at least one vendor is building a product for that same reality. Now if they could just make it pretty.