The Motorola Atrix 4G: This is Huge

By  |  Sunday, January 9, 2011 at 12:45 pm

Not to get all gushy or anything, but I think one of Harry’s best opinion columns here was the one from March 2009 about how smartphones are destined to replace the PC, and how the comforts of full-sized computing — keyboard, mouse, monitor — will become dumb shells for our powerful handsets.

Motorola’s Atrix 4G is an indication that he’s right. The phone itself marks a technological leap, as one of several new Android handsets with dual-core processors, but the real revolution is an optional dock that acts like a laptop when the phone is plugged in. There’s also a separate HD dock for televisions and external monitors, with USB ports for full-sized keyboards and mouses. Ladies and gentlemen: your dumb shells.

When the smartphone is docked, it launches desktop software on the 11.6-inch laptop screen, with a full version of Mozilla’s Firefox browser and Adobe Flash 10.1. If you believe Google’s claim that we spend 90 percent of our computing time in the web browser, the Atrix dock is pretty close to being a complete laptop, and it can use Citrix’s virtualization services to access PC apps through the Internet. The dock software can also access the Android OS, so you can run apps in full screen.

The HD dock feeds 720p video to TVs or external monitors, and while it can access the laptop dock’s software and Web browser, it also has its own multimedia interface for quickly launching movies, music and photos.

Motorola’s Atrix is a potentially harmful development for wireless carriers, because while they’re trying to push more data plans on their users for laptops and tablets, the Atrix is the start of consolidation back to a single device. Why get a 3G netbook if your smartphone’s dumb shell performs almost all the same tasks?

And yet, AT&T will carry the Atrix when it launches this quarter. If AT&T doesn’t muck up the data pricing or charge a fortune for the docks, we might just get a little taste of the future in the next few months.


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6 Comments For This Post

  1. Stark Ravin Says:

    Errr, wasn't this called the Foleo when Palm announced it (and then killed it) a few years ago? It was considered a lame idea then. What changed….?

  2. JaredNewman Says:

    A lot has changed in three years: Faster mobile processors, faster mobile data, prevalence of smartphones in general and Android in particular among consumers, the overall shift in computing towards Web services and emphasis on the browser.

    But aside from all that, the Folio was a fundamentally different device because it had its own CPU and memory. The Atrix dock contains only a battery. Everything else is powered directly by the phone.

  3. ALM Says:

    Aree with Jared, This is totally different. The Foleo was at destined for failure netbook that could communicate with a smartphone. The Atrix is a smartphone that can adapt into alternate compute paradigms such as a laptop or desktop. It's a modular compute unit in the form of a smart phone. The Atrix is just, IMO, the extension of a idea that has been around for a while, but seem to be the first real unit that meets the base requirements.

  4. drew Says:

    I am getting tired of buying new technology just to see the paradigm change in space of months. This is a cool idea, but I just got a DroidPro to replace my Blackberry. I have a netbook and an iPad, plus a iPod toch for good measure. I miss OS/2 warp…..

  5. David Says:

    I used OS/2 back in the day. OS/2 2.1, OS/2 Warp 3 and OS/2 4 Merlin.

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