Panasonic toughs it out

Japanese electronics giant Panasonic foresees promising prospects for its line of rugged computers, helped by an increased focus on logistics, retail, manufacturing, health care and tourism.

Some of the Toughbook products. The newer models are priced from 60,000 to 200,000 baht.

"We've found Asean economies are growing, boosted by rising intra-regional trade, business expansion, transportation and tourism," said Hide Harada, IT products business director of AVC Networks Company, which operates the Toughbook unit for Panasonic.

The Toughbook line of rugged computers is designed to withstand vibrations, drops, spills, extreme temperatures and rough handling.

All Toughbook models have a magnesium alloy case. Many have liquid crystal display (LCD) panels designed specifically for visibility during daylight. Other elements include a shock-mounted hard drive and a moisture- and dust-resistant keyboard and touchpad.

Panasonic has marketed the Toughbook series since 1996 in several configurations ranging from business and semi-rugged to fully rugged in both laptop and tablet personal computer configurations, with several speciality designs with customisable add-on features.

Panasonic aims to sell 830,000 units of Toughbook in its 2014 fiscal year, a rise from 680,000 in fiscal 2013 that ended in March. Sales are forecast to grow to more than 1 million units in fiscal 2015.

Last year, the world's rugged computer market registered 1.52 million units.

Demand for such products will rise in line with the growth of the mobile workforce and the need to stay connected at all times, even in outdoor conditions.

According to research firm IDC, the world's mobile worker population will reach 1.3 billion, representing 37.2% of the workforce, by 2015.

"We aim to become the market leader globally in rugged PCs with a 60% market share in 2015," said Mr Harada.

For the Thai market, Panasonic launched three models on April 4 _ the Toughbook CF-C2, Business Mobile CF-AX2 and Toughpad FZ-G1 at prices ranging from 60,000 to 200,000 baht.

The company plans to introduce the Toughpad JT-B1 to Thailand in September or October.

About the author

Writer: Piyachart Maikaew
Position: Business Reporter