Is there a market for ruggedized devices outside large enterprises?

Is there a market for ruggedized devices outside large enterprises?

Summary: When Panasonic unveiled new ruggedized mobile computing devices for the Indian enterprise market, I wondered if SMBs would be interested in such devices.

TOPICS: Tablets, Mobility, SMBs

Last week Panasonic India unveiled four new ruggedized mobile computing devices for the Indian enterprise market. Intending to benefit different industry segments like automotive, aviation, telecom, utility, retail, manufacturing, logistics and etc., these devices are designed to give mobile workers reliable and secure access to their data and applications in challenging environments, thereby increasing workforce mobility and productivity.

The Toughpad FZ-G1 is the world's first Windows 8 enterprise-grade ruggedized tablet. Panasonic also unveiled Toughpad JT-B1, a seven-inch Android tablet and two handheld computers--Toughbook JT-H300HT and JT-H320HT.

Extremely durable and secure, Toughpad is ideal for mobile workers, combining highly secured data and device management with the seamless connectivity and enterprise-grade technology businesses and government agencies require.


I spoke to Manish Sharma, managing director at Panasonic India, and he mentioned Panasonic India now had a renewed focus on the B2B (Business to Business) and B2G (Business to Government) business. Since these products were not available on retail shelves or at online stores, Panasonic India would have their sales channels connect with large enterprises, and also build custom software solutions for their need to deploy these devices in the field.

During the conversation, I wondered if small and midsized businesses (SMBs) in India were interested in such ruggedized devices. While these products ewre obviously expensive, I believe smaller setups with field workforce like sales professionals, logistics providers, and production crew might benefit from them.

Rajesh Sharma, who runs a New Delhi-based event management company, was sold as I showed him the product brochure I picked up at the launch event. He now plans to buy four of these Toughpads. Unlike a large enterprise, he doesn't need custom applications since PowerPoint and Excel are all he requires apart from e-mail and IM.

"About 12-18 hours before an event we do, my operations guys are on the site setting things and venue up. This involves back-and-forth communication with clients, equipment suppliers, and partners, setting things up as per the storyboards and event flows we've created, create playlists, and much more. While we execute premium events, the site before the event starts is like a war-zone. These devices would last my crew the entire day, take a drop or fall in that hassled space, and go around in the hands of the non-sophisticated workforce." he said.

Here's the problem. How can SMBs can buy these devices since Panasonic India's sales channels are focussed on large enterprises?

According to Panasonic's Manish, there are more than 100 people taking care of B2B business for India.

"I'm trying to utilize this footprint of Panasonic India to reach out to consumers and SMBs. When it comes to the core and developing specific applications, then definitely magnitude and economies of scale would have us focus on big businesses and a specific team of the Toughbook business would handle it," he said.

Manish added others will initially be tapped by catalogue reach and when there is a business interest, the lead would be passed to the Toughbook business team. "The team would then take care of it irrespective of magnitude of requirements," he said.

If you work in an SMB, do you think ruggedized mobile devices could lead to your team's productivity on the move?

Topics: Tablets, Mobility, SMBs

Abhishek Baxi

About Abhishek Baxi

Abhishek Baxi is an independent digital consultant and a freelance technology columnist based in India. He writes on consumer technology and trends for several leading print and online publications.

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  • Field workers...

    It doesn't matter if you are a large or small company, if you are working in rugged environments, you need rugged tools. Paying a grand extra for a rugged laptop or tablet is cheaper than having to replace a normal tablet or notebook every few weeks, because it got wet or dropped.

    We had a field worker (literally), his Mercedes K-Wagen got stuck in a boggy field, where he was running some tests for contaminents. He slammed his trusty Husky rugged tablet PC (this was 1991) under the rear wheel of the Merc and reversed out of the hole. He then picked up the Husky and washed it off in a near-by stream, before continuing on with his work.

    Try that with an iPad, Surface or Nexus tablet. :-D

    I currently work in the food processing industry, which involves the devices being hosed down with high pressure hoses at the end of the day. All computer equipment needs to be either IP65, or better still IP69K.

    Having gone through the certification process, it is a lot of work to get a device IP69K certified!
  • Market for ruggedized devices

    There would be a huge market for ruggedized devices if the markup for those devices was small, like 10-50% instead of 100-500% (or more). I might pay another 100-200 dollars for a ruggedized 500 dollar laptop if it makes me reasonably certain it will last 100-200 dollars longer. I'm not going to pay thousands for it. I might as well just buy multiple laptops instead then.
    • Unfortunately,

      you get what you pay for. Getting the ruggesdised certification costs several thousand dollars, per model. Combine that with reduced sales volume and the cost per machine can quickly run into tens or hundreds of dollars per device.

      Additionally, the manufacturers have to use robust materials, to ensure the devices can withstand a drop onto concrete etc. without being damaged. Those materials are much more expensive than injection moulded plastic, or even Gorilla Glass and aluminium.

      If your component costs are 3 to 5 times the price of a non-robust device, you can't sell it for less than 1.5 times the price of a normal device!
  • I used laptops as an example but

    The same holds true for other devices like tablets and phones.