Panasonic and CI Distribution talking all things Rugged

All terrain rugged devices are finding use across a wide range of end applications. Here we speak with Panasonic’s Adam Read and Dan Creasey along with CI Distribution’s Jon Atherton, delving into why the Rugged devices market is proving to be an increasingly lucrative space for resellers.

Panasonic have now launched a complete Android Enterprise offering, why should resellers/end users be looking at your proposition?

Adam Read

Adam Read: Android had a misconception around security some years ago, today the Android Enterprise solution is secure, what customers I believe are looking for is a truly robust device, with extended lifecycle support and the knowledge that the device is secure. With Panasonic’s pedigree, UK support focused around our ‘Compass’ suite of software-support packages with decades of knowledge and experience we deliver an out of the box solution to suit all verticals.

Dan Creasey

Dan Creasey: Our Android offering is now the N1 a 4.7” handheld solution with the S1 being a larger screen at 7” and the A3 at 10.1” including Security support and extended manufacturer warranty for the A3. We are currently offering Android PARC which is an MDM configuration tool, great for any SME end user with a small number of devices that doesn’t want the expenditure on a 3rd party supplier.

Jon Atherton

Why have CI-Distribution entered the android/handheld space?
Jon Atherton: It is a natural fit for CI-D, many of our existing customers already buy Android devices to complete certain vertical solutions, with Panasonic’s recent launch into Android we can now offer a complete Rugged solution. Many applications-verticals see ‘android’ as the go-to OS and with product restraints and diminishing margins on other well-known brands we are seeing a shift in mindset by resellers to work with companies like Panasonic that ensure margin sustainability is available long-term. Panasonic have quire rightly benchmarked where the pricing should be on Android, the TCO stacks up nicely!

Rugged has been a specialist market, but with other players coming into the market it seems this vertical will see many new resellers get involved, what pitfalls-frustrations do you have?
Adam Read: In a nutshell – Misconceptions and clever marketing…. we see ALL to often many resellers being misinformed on other devices that are clearly not fit for purpose in the environment they are going into. You simply can’t use a consumer grade tablet-notebook in a rugged case in many if not all the solutions we get involved in. So many times, end users have taken the cost option and gone for a consumer device with a rugged shell only for them to have 30%+ failure rates, damaged, etc. We see the same opportunity 12 months later. Remember Rugged solutions are made to maximise productivity, designed for rough-tough environments, with specific technologies in direct sunlight – rain, temperature, drop tests, etc.

Jon Atherton: I agree with Adam, I cannot stress enough the importance in providing a rugged device over a consumer device in particular to any offsite-external opportunity.

Do you think Android will be the go-to OS in 2022?
Jon Atherton: Microsoft’s Windows, Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android have always been in a tug of war. However, when it comes to the rugged device market, with Microsoft silently leaving the stage and iOS not in yet, it leaves Android with no competition. With Android gifting its customers a plethora of features and making device management seem a breeze with the help of UEMs (Unified Endpoint Management), I suppose there is no doubt about who the winner is…

How long have Panasonic and CI Distribution been in partnership? What is their USP?
Adam Read: We have worked with CI-D for decades. CI-D was one of the first partners that Panasonic signed all those years ago. We have a unique relationship with them due to longevity and key focus they give us throughout the UK/Eire market. CI-D are one of a select few distribution partners across Europe that have configuration status so they can up/downgrade certain devices. This is due to the knowledge and technical experience they have gained over so many years, in addition Jon Atherton has obviously helped the business with his knowledge and networking experience. Business is good.

Jon Atherton: Oh, don’t forget we also do Asset Retirement on any end user legacy product, a great added revenue not just for the reseller but the end user for his old devices!

Where do you see Rugged products long term?
Adam Read: Panasonic continues to be the leading provider of Rugged solutions worldwide, it is our duty to continue to be leading innovation and design across our portfolio, the market is tough (no pun intended) we do have/see misconceptions by other partners around what is ‘Rugged’ which is frustrating but we continue to bring to market new models, ideas and reliability. Recently the Android solutions we have in the portfolio has seen fantastic growth, we do encourage all resellers to get involved in the Google Android Academy courses.

Jon Atherton: I echo Adam’s comments, OS wise I have no doubt that Android will gain further market share and we will see further new brands entering into the market, specifically around semi-rugged tablets, which is the easiest path into the Rugged vertical. Notebooks will continue to be dominated by the usual suspects, with Panasonic continuing to be a leading brand due to the cost involved in research & development, the decades of experience, Knowledge built up and the end user brand recognition.

How can resellers get involved, understand and sell the Rugged devices?
Jon Atherton: It’s not difficult at all, in partnership with Panasonic we can arrange ongoing training. Either onsite or via Teams. Panasonic also have sales and technical courses online. All you need to do is register as a partner. At CI-Distribution we work with many new resellers who require our expertise on what devices best fit, we work with them to find the correct solution. In a very short period that reseller will have the know how to drive Rugged solutions.

Adam Read: Understanding the end user is a key focus for our team, we employ several BDM focused individuals who are vertical focused who can be an extension of the reseller in finding the right solutions. We do support quantity opportunities and deal registration, that should give peace of mind to any reseller that their opportunities are protected. We will even support opportunities as low as 10 devices.

Is the Rugged market large in the UK? What is the typical end user?
Dan Creasey: The UK market continues to grow YOY, Rugged Tablets/Handhelds/Notebooks is one of the only client growth products and should be a primary focus area for any B2B/VAR reseller. These devices reach so many verticals now due to mobility and flexibility of the products, but it ranges across Utilities, Energy, Defence, Logistics, Warehousing, etc. Even Fast-food outlets; when the guy in the rain is taking your fast-food order, he can use a Panasonic tablet in the rain, the screen is unaffected, and he can use it with gloves on due to the ‘glove’ technology.

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