Rugged Cases for Tablets Will Not Displace Rugged Devices

Consumer tablets have undoubtedly been the hottest mobile devices of 2011 and now, due to the increased interest in these devices, particularly from employees, tablets have started to make their way into the enterprise market via a phenomenon known as the consumerization of IT.

According to a USA Today article from earlier in 2011, Apple claimed that the iPad has been tested or deployed at 80% of Fortune 100 companies. Even vertical industries, such as healthcare, are not immune to the use of tablets: a recent survey found 27 percent of primary care providers and specialists say they use iPads at work.

Given the increased demand from enterprise clients for tablets and the fragile nature of consumer tablets (as demonstrated in this video) case manufacturers have started to address these intrinsic drawbacks by making ruggedized cases to help increase the durability of these devices, with some case manufacturers even claiming IP ratings and MIL-Spec certification. Despite some of the wild claims made by manufactures of rugged cases, most are simply marketing hype, as ZDNet’s Jason’s Perlow recently discovered.

The main argument against ruggedized mobile devices has always been their higher prices. Many enterprises do not need military grade ruggedness — let’s face it: most enterprise users are not going to need mobile devices to be rammer-resistant or ATV proof — so the temptation to add a ruggedized case to a $500 consumer grade tablet is compelling.

However, as with any mission critical mobile deployment, the environment where a device is deployed needs to be a key consideration, because simply wrapping a consumer device in a rugged case will not address every potential issue.   This could result in highly reduced efficiencies, user downtime and elevated IT support costs.

Even if the iPad is a rousing success in the consumer space, it will still be a challenge to translate the iPad’s user experience into an equally satisfying solution for vertical markets due to the unique needs of each industry. As Jeff Orr of ABI Research noted in an interview with ZDNet, “The reality today is that enterprises are evaluating the iPad because they have to, not necessarily because they want to.”

Panasonic aims to address these unique requirements with the release of its rugged enterprise tablet, the Toughpad A1 tablet, just released last month. Our Toughpad tablet will address key shortcomings of consumer tablets, by delivering a product designed with security, functionality and real-world reliability in mind. Moreover, like all Toughbook products, the Toughpad tablet will be designed and constructed with the mission-critical mobile user in mind, offering durability, and ingress protection consistent with our other fully-rugged devices.

True enterprise-ready devices are capable of much more than just being able to withstand an occasional drop or splash; they are purpose-built to offer the right mix of durability and productivity features to drive maximum ROI to the mission-critical mobile user.

Has a consumer tablet ever come-up short for you in the field? We welcome you to share some of your stories of frustration with us.