Panasonic Toughbook CF-08|
Resurgence of the Windows CE slate
(by Conrad H. Blickenstorfer)
On April 12, 2007, Panasonic Japan added the Toughbook CF-08 to its website, and a little later it appeared on the US site as well. Unlike most Toughbooks, the CF-08 is neither a rugged notebook nor an ultralight business durable like the T/Y/W series. Instead, it's a Windows CE 5.0-based rugged slate. Panasonic calls it a "Wireless Display" and there Panasonic has a precedent in its rather successful CF-07 that was also a remote wireless tablet interacting with a system unit and used in numerous field applications for several years. The 2.65-pound CF-08 slate is meant to be used via Citrix ICA or Microsoft RDP as a terminal server with either a Toughbook or a Windows Server. It communicates via integrated 802.11b/g or Bluetooth.
The CF-08 features a 10.4-inch outdoor-readable TFT with a satisfying 1024 x 768 XGA resolution, which means terminal sessions run on it are actually useful as opposed to those on earlier remote tablet efforts that were marred by the low resolution of the remote slate. A remarkably powerful 38 watt-hour Li-Ion battery provides about seven hours of operation, with the Japanese site indicating as much as 14 hours. Clearly, Panasonic's designers had full-shift operation in mind.
On the technical side, the CF-08 is powered by the 312MHz version of the PXA270 processor. It has a modest 64MB of RAM and an equal amount of Flash ROM. More is not needed for terminal sessions. Likewise, expansion is limited to a single SD card slot, a USB 1.1 port, a 10/100 LAN connecor, and docking provisions.
From a design point of view, the CF-08 is all Panasonic, that is to say it has an all-magnesium case and sports exemplary industrial design and good looks. The 10.4-inch screen mandates a relatively large 10.5 x 8.25 inch footprint, and the tablet is 1.4 inches thick. Its ergonomic design, light weight, and cleverly designed strap on the back make it easy to carry around and use.
While the CF-08 is not an ultra-rugged device, it's designed to hold up well in various field applications. It's sealed to IP54 specifications and can handle four foot drops. The device has been tested to various MIL-STD and other standards (I've been to the test lab in the Panasonic Kobe factory; it's state-of-the-art and puts Toughbooks through brutal tests). As is, the CF-08 is designed for a variety of applications, from maintenance, construction, warehousing, health care, to law enforcement and more. Panasonic expects to move about 5,000 units a year.