Panasonic is working to carve out its own tablet niche by following its rugged PC path to success. The tech giant has introduced the latest member of its Toughpad line of enterprise-grade tablets at the 2014 International CES trade show in Las Vegas.

Panasonic is billing the Toughpad FZ-M1 as the thinnest and lightest rugged seven-inch fanless tablet on the market. The machine carries a 4th generation Intel Relevant Products/Services Core i5 processor Relevant Products/Services and runs Windows 8.1 Pro. The tablet is tested to meet MIL-STD-810G specifications for drops (up to 5 feet), shock, vibration, altitude, humidity and extreme temperatures.

"Most tablets on the market today are designed to be 'good enough' to meet most users' needs,” said Rance Poehler, president, Panasonic System Communications Company of North America. “But 'good enough' won't cut it for a large portion of the mobile workforce, who need tools they can depend on in challenging conditions to get the job done without compromise.”

Enterprise Level

Panasonic is aiming at the enterprise and government market with the Toughpad FZ-M1. The tablet, which weighs 1.2 pounds, offers a broad range of configuration options and can be customized to meet the unique needs of highly mobile professionals in various markets such as field services and sales, retail, supply chain and logistics, and government.

"The Toughpad FZ-M1 is built for those workers,” Poehler said. “Its highly portable and compact size, power Relevant Products/Services, connectivity and configuration options, and sheer toughness make it the ideal tablet to connect mission-critical workers of all types with the data Relevant Products/Services they need to do their jobs at any time."

The Toughpad FZ-M1 is designed to improve productivity and efficiency in a host of professional scenarios, including customer Relevant Products/Services service, inventory management and asset tracking, maintenance, eForms, route delivery, eCitations, electronic medical records, inspections, mobile point-of-sales and geographic information system Relevant Products/Services (GIS).

A Strong Option

The Toughpad FZ-M1's 7-inch, 500 nit, daylight-readable WXGA display features an anti-reflective screen treatment, making it suitable for outdoor use. Panasonic said the high-sensitivity capacitive, 10-point multi-touch screen can be used with thick industrial-type gloves. An optional stylus is available for signature capture and similar applications.

Panasonic is doing something most other tablet-maker don’t do: making the battery Relevant Products/Services user-replaceable. The battery promises eight hours of uninterrupted work, with quick-charging technology that reaches 100 percent capacity in two and a half hours. An optional high capacity battery delivers 16 hours of power, and an optional bridge battery enables users to switch out batteries without powering down the device.

We asked Avi Greengart, a principal analyst at Current Analysis, for his take on the new tough tablet. He told us Panasonic has long served the enterprise market for ruggedized laptops -- and this isn't its first tablet targeting this segment, either.

“iOS and Android tablets are making serious inroads into this space,” he explained from Las Vegas, where he’s attending CES, “but for those who are extending their Windows architecture to mobile workers, Panasonic's newest ruggedized tablet looks like a strong option.”

The Toughpad FZ-M1 Intel Core i5 vPro processor model will be available in early spring 2014 at a street price of $2,099. All Toughpad tablets can be purchased through authorized Panasonic resellers.