If there was any doubt this year's CES is all about tablet computers, the arrival of Panasonic to the handheld computer party has scotched it. Causing many a cry of "WTF?" round the CNET UK office, the Japanese company has announced its intention to release three tablets this year -- 10-inch, 7-inch and 4-inch jobbies.
In a press release that's big on ambition and short on specifics, the company paints the Viera tablet as more a companion to one of its TVs than a brilliant, must-have device in its own right.
Panasonic says its tablets will be able to stream video, letting you watch a different angle from a sports match on the tablet while the main action takes place on the telly. You'll also be able to control Viera TVs with the tablet, including "switching channels" -- just imagine!
Panasonic is also promising that the tablet will be "shock resistant". Given that the company has plenty of experience making the rugged Toughbook range of laptops, we'd like to think the hardware will be hardier than the typical tablet.
Other promised features include the ability to buy stuff featured on the telly using the tablet, an ebook shop, social-networking support and video streaming from partner companies yet to be announced.
Panasonic hasn't specified the version of Android that will feature on the tablet, but it has said it will use Wi-Fi, which we're taking to mean it won't have 3G. No other specs have been released.
It's an unusual step for a company more associated with home cinema and imaging, but we're very interested to see how it'll pan out. It sounds like the plans for what Panasonic calls its "cloud service business" are at a very early stage -- success or failure in the UK will depend heavily on the partners it can entice onboard.
What do you think? Is this one tablet manufacturer too many or are you excited by this new entrant? Let us know in the comments below. Meanwhile, here are a couple of pictures from Panasonic that aim to explain its vision easily, but do exactly the opposite.