Panasonic Toughbook Android Tablet Coming to Rival RIM PlayBook

Panasonic is launching an Android-based Toughbook tablet later this year, a 10.1-inch slate targeted more toward RIM's enterprise users and not Apple's iPad consumer base.

Research in Motion's (TSE:RIM) Blackberry PlayBook is going to get some competition later this year from an unlikely source.

Panasonic Solutions Company, whose focus is on building rugged IT solutions for government and commercial enterprises, said it is building its Android-based Toughbook tablet to sell to enterprises in the fourth quarter of this year.

Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPad and Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android-based tablets such as the Motorola Xoom and Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 are intended to facilitate consumer media consumption.

The Toughbook is targeting government personnel, mobile workforces and "security-conscious IT managers and bottom-line-focused CFOs," Panasonic said in a statement June 16.

Indeed, the Toughbook's 10.1-inch display won't feature a glossy front screen that beckons users to watch YouTube videos or play games. These screens tend to be hard to read outdoors in the bright sunlight.

The Toughbook's XGA screen will boast high brightness, suitable for viewing in the daylight. This will allow corporate road warriors to use their tablets regardless of the lighting differentials in their travels.

The slate will also feature a stylus to facilitate signature capture similar to the way customers currently sign for FedEx or UPS packages. The idea is to appeal to sales, customer service and other fleets where sales transactions are the norm.

These business traits might put the device more squarely in competition with the 7-inch PlayBook, which has sold hundreds of thousands of units as a blend of corporate messaging slate with video chat capabilities and a consumer-friendly gadget with Facebook and other applications.

Of course, a tablet can't be proclaimed an enterprise tablet without addressing the No. 1 business requirement: data security. The Toughbook is being built with security at the hardware level for maximum protection, according to Panasonic.

"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," Rance Poehler, president of Panasonic Solutions said in the statement.

Pricing is not available at this time, but it's likely the Toughbook, with all of its pledges of enterprise-grade perks, will be pricier than the average $500 or $600 iPad or Android tablet.

In other tablet news, Lenovo President and COO Rory Read told Dow Jones Newswires the computer maker would release two 10-inch Android 3.0 "Honeycomb" tablets in the U.S. this summer and a Microsoft Windows tablet later this year.

Lenovo plans to launch an "IdeaPad" consumer tablet worldwide in July, followed by a ThinkPad-branded enterprise tablet with a stylus for enterprises in August. The slates will be priced from $450 to $900, depending on their configuration, Read said.