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Panasonic Pushing Ahead with Android-Based Toughbook

Windows 8 may have a good tablet story, but one of Microsoft's tightest OEM partners isn't waiting around for the new OS's probable release in the second half of 2012.

At the InfoComm show in Orlando, Fla. this week, Panasonic is showing off a Google Android-based Toughbook that will ship in the fourth quarter of this year.

The core operating system of the Panasonic Toughbook line for years has been Windows. The Panasonic Toughbook home page even sports the Windows 7 Professional logo and the tagline: "Windows®. Life Without Walls™. Panasonic recommends Windows 7."

Panasonic has even been one of the OEMs to develop and market the purpose-built, Windows-based tablets, such as the C1, the H1 Field and the H1 Health. Those are exactly the types of devices Microsoft often pointed to when critics accused Redmond of lacking a response to the Apple iPad or to Google Android-based tablets.

In a statement, Panasonic Solutions President Rance Poehler, echoed some of the reasons that Microsoft's defenders use to argue that current slates or media tablets aren't ready for enterprise use, but Poehler contended that the Toughbook will remediate those problems.

"Enterprise customers are very interested in the tablet market, but have been frustrated by the lack of appropriate solutions," Poehler said. "The vast majority of tablet devices -- regardless of the OS -- are engineered for consumers and don't offer appropriate levels of security and durability or the functionality needed for business use."

To address what Panasonic describes as the "current gap" in the media tablet market, the company plans to deliver a Toughbook "enterprise-grade Android tablet" with a high-brightness, daylight-viewable screen; an active stylus in addition to the multi-touch display; security embedded at the hardware level; and standard Toughbook ruggedization.

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A Panasonic spokesperson confirmed Friday that the Android tablet is the only non-Windows Toughbook that Panasonic has offered, although some partners have loaded Linux on devices like the Toughbook 19.

Does this mean Panasonic won't be standing by to release a Windows-based tablet when Windows 8 is ready? That's not likely. But it's just a reminder that OEMs will go where they see the market heading. Once upon a time, Windows was that market, and what Microsoft said would happen is what would actually happen. Now, Microsoft is one player among many. Windows 8 may come out well before the tablet market gets set in concrete as far as market share. Then again, it may not.

Posted by Scott Bekker on June 17, 2011