Like something from a B-grade Frankenstein movie, the concept of docking a smartphone as the CPU and storage for a variety of laptop-like shells continues coming back to life in a variety of incarnations. One such device, a Motorola webtop, was recently buried in a shallow grave, and something similar may yet again rise from the cemetery of abandoned devices.
Number One 2013 Technology Trend
The reason the Bring-Your-Own-Brain concept keeps reincarnating is simple. BYOB has a soul that just refuses to die. That soul is PC device convergence; the number one trend in computing for 2012, and continuing into 2013 and beyond.
The concept and convenience of using a small, pocket-sized computer with a CPU, GPU, storage, and its own operating system to drive numerous display, keyboard combinations, including standard laptops and desktops, is just too good to stay buried. That small computer is of course a smartphone, and the latest iteration of the Android 4.2 Jelly Bean operating system (OS) is able to handle high resolution displays.
The soul of convergence has recently inhabited the bodies of several devices covered by this writer including the ClamCase ClamBook, the well received Asus PadFone, and the creative Fujitsu Lifebook 2013 Concept Notebook. Clearly, manufacturers plan on keeping that concept alive as evidenced by the recent introduction of the Asus PadFone 2.
Why haven’t smartphone, laptop-shell combinations been more successful? The inhibitor is that those combinations are based on dedicated, proprietary connectors, display-keyboard shells sometimes called lapdocks, and proprietary smartphones required to power the entire combination. Updating only the smartphone, or only the lapdock, may really spoil the entire experience, and in any case locks the user into a single manufacturer.
The solution could be as simple as an industry-standard non-proprietary connector and software interface that could allow any smartphone to drive any laptop, desktop, or keyboard-monitor combination, as well as lapdock shells that do not supply their own storage, CPUs, or GPUs. That setup would allow most travelers to take a computing environment with them, and in many but not all scenarios, could eliminate the need to carry a laptop on at least some trips.
Proprietary setups are not likely to dominate over the long term, because the driving rationale is portability and augmentation with smartphones that users already own.
Additional Proprietary Contenders
A device combination, going by the names NexPhone and NexTablet,is an upcoming concept product line which is in the preliminary concept design stage.
Samsung meanwhile is moving forward with what it calls a Smart Dock for the widely acclaimed Galaxy Note 2 smartphone.
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