January 13, 2011

By itself, the Atrix was but one of the dozen or so large-screened Android smartphones that invaded CES 2011, but what really set it apart was its lapdock accessory. This clamshell combination of a full-sized keyboard, screen and battery allow the Atrix to function more like a Linux smartbook.

Extending the processing and connectivity of a smartphone to notebook proportions is, of course, not a new idea. The pre-Elevation Palm sort of tried it with the Foleo, which was a mostly independent device and in some ways a closer ancestor to the BlackBerry Playbook. Celio implemented it with the Redfly, although that product was tied to the unpopular Windows Mobile OS and later BlackBerry, where it was poorly integrated. Rather than a dock, both solutions were able to use bandwidth-constrained Bluetooth to pair the input and output enhancement to the phone. In the case of the Redfly, a cable could also be used.

The Atrix 4G lapdock solution seems like it will work better than those approaches, but in the excitement over a smartphone that can apparently transform into a laptop, I think we’ve been too quick to overlook the lapdock’s strange design, in which the Atrix is docked behind the screen. This allows for easy connection and disconnection of the smartphone, but it doesn’t allow for use of both screens simultaneously. More importantly, it doesn’t allow you to easily transport the docked Atrix within the lapdock. I’d be surprised if a competitor taking a crack at this didn’t make it so that the phone is inserted securely inside the clamshell, allowing for sufficient ventilation, of course.

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March 6, 2008

image If Apple was going to be excessively restrictive with its SDK, there would have been no point in publishing it, Apple noted at the introduction that it was a “platform company” (most of the time anyway). Combined with the $100 million iFund, it appears clear that we are witnessing nothing less than the rebirth of the Macintosh now shrunk to pocket size and inviting a new breed of developers to rethink mobile application development.

Perhaps, contrary to Michael Mace’s post on why smartphone development is dead, the reason is not the “combination of splintering platforms, shrinking distribution channels, and rising costs,” but rather that native applications haven’t been distinguished enough from what you could do in a browser or via platforms such as BREW. Other factors helping development are having the App Store on the device and available over cellular connections and not having to account for countless platform and screen size variations.

Of course, these are all conditions that make it easier to dip the fishing rod. There are still no guarantees that the consumer will bite. But from what we’ve been seeing iPhone users do in terms of accessing the Web and using their music features, they have high potential to create the most successful mobile smartphone application market we have seen.

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