When it comes to wireless-Internet access, consumers still prefer to use laptops. Yet they've been limited to only having access near a Wi-Fi hot spot. Now, Panasonic has broken this hot-spot tether with its Toughbook line of integrated wireless communication laptops. All Toughbooks are designed to support current nationwide cellular networks, Wi-Fi connections, and even Bluetooth. They also are designed to operate in a ruggedized mobile computing environment. According to VDC (www.vdc-corp.com) technology market research, the ruggedized market is expected to become a $1-billion-a-year industry by 2007.
One of the latest additions to this product line is the wireless-ready Toughbook 29. It boasts a sealed full-magnesium-alloy case and shock-mounted hard drive (See Photo). With a 13.3-in. anti-reflective, outdoor-readable liquid-crystal display (LCD) and backlit keyboard, it ensures easy viewing in any light. Because it's built around Intel's Centrino Mobile Technology, the Toughbook 29 is integrated with the IEEE 802.11b wireless LAN. Further connectivity can be achieved through wide-area-network (WAN) options and Bluetooth add-ons. The WAN support includes Cellular Digital Packet Data (CDPD), GSM/GPRS with external SIM slot, and 1xRTT/cdma2000. The availability of these options may vary.
The Toughbook 29 supports the Microsoft Windows operating environment. In addition to the wireless connections, it provides a Global Positioning System (GPS) module. The product's typical laptop port options include connections for a 56k modem along with Ethernet, Type II PCMCIA card slots, two USB 2.0 ports, and audio input and output. Prices on the machine vary. Visit the Panasonic Toughbook web site.Panasonic, Matsushita Electric Corp. of America One Panasonic Way, Secaucus, NJ 07094; (800) 662-3537, www.Panasonic.com/toughbook.