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Panasonic to launch Toughbook mini tablet this week

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Panasonic will later this week add a rugged mini tablet PC to its Toughbook line of products.

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The machine is based on Intel's Centrino Atom platform and prototype versions have a touch-sensitive 5.6-inch screen under which is a compact QWERTY keyboard that's been split in half with a number pad filling up the center. The letter keys were divided to make them all within reach of the user's thumbs so its possible to hold the machine and type.

Various sockets are placed around the edge of the machine and each is covered with a rubber hood to keep water and dust from getting into the computer.

The machine has been previewed several times already this year. First it was shown at Cebit in Germany and then at the Intel Developer Forum in Shanghai, where Intel officially launched the Centrino Atom platform.

As part of the Atom launch Anand Chandrasekher, head of Intel's ultra-mobility group, brought the Toughbook onto the Shanghai stage and deliberately dropped it to prove that the rugged machine would carry on working.

"As you can see, it lives up to its name," he afterwards.

Panasonic is scheduled to officially unveil the machine, detailed specifications, global shipping dates and prices on Wednesday.

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