Dockable Tablets at CES2011

This blog has been saying for a long time a dockable tablet makes  a lot of sense; especially for the legions of  iPad wannabee vendors at CES trying to differentiate their product from the 60, yes 60, new tablets introduced so far this year. Well to my chagrin very few tablet vendors it seems has seen the advantage of such conveniences as:

1)A tablet that can conveniently be linked through USB3 or eSata to a dumb -through-to-smart docking station – at minimum the  tablet becomes the screen+system unit  with a full keyboard while recharging;
2)With a button tap the tablet can be detached and yet near-fully operational. carry the dockable to to a meeting  or  act as a video tape recorder or pick up any notes  from a colleague using WiFi/Bluetooth doc pickup /exchange services;
3) And then its off to another meeting at an external office. Tapping and swiping the tablet’s  geolocation and Google maps  you can a)find the client’s office and b) the fastest path thru the existing traffic and c)pay the cabby through your WiTouch connection;
4)At home you re-connect the tablet to a second, home docking station which has HDMI out connection to a big 1080p +65 inch diagonal TV screen to review days events while watching The Game with your daughter in goal at the school’s soccer tournament;
5)But the home docking station has  a local 1TB Drive connected by eSata  which immediately starts a backup of all data stored on your tablet hard drive while downloading the movie you just selected for viewing after the soccer game. This docking station connects to a super-stereo system and acts as the house controller- so you can keep track of the meal cooking,  the  wash being finished and the temperature in the bathroom for your late nite spa-bath.
6)Finally, you need to do some serious number crunching so the home docking station helps contact the Cloud and with a virtual machine you prepare a look through the numbers.The Cloud also acts as a universal backup and state storage so you can take your dockable anywhere and be sure it has the latest settings and info if needed.  Fortunately your docking station has its own CPU+broadband connection so this task can be run without dragging CPUand bandwidth from The Game.

Well thank you for staying with the idea of the tablet being the MVC controller for a collection of docking stations and info exchange stations that are available whereever you work or play. Despite the the proliferation of proprietary hardware and software systems, the above scenario is doable even now. But the enabling hardware – well even wondrously magical Apple and its iPad cannot do this. And so far as ye Editor can see no CES-wannabee tablet provider has the same vision.

But wait there is a smartphone provider, Motorola, with a vision for this – enter Motorola Atrix 4G:

Yes, this is not a tablet but a Motorola  smartphone that implements this dockable vision and has starteddploying it with Motorola’s+ Webtop interface for a smartphone. The docking station screen is instantly on when plugged in. The docking station itself is barebones – a trackpad+keyboard+recharging  service but otherwise dumb. Motorola’s Webtop interface software  transforms the view from mobile to desktop proportions. And the dock has HDMI out for moving data to the big screen. See the video below for more details:

Engadget had these nice words about the Motorola Atrix 4G – “the best thing we have seen at CES in a long time”. No small praise and see eWeeks positive note here.

Who will follow?

There has been a lot of tablets to digest at CES – so bear with ye old Editor’s inability to cough up another tablet [or smartphone] with this dockable vision. There have been rumors of Taiwanese forays in this direction. And Lenovo’s IdeaPad certainly is a step in the right direction with the caveat that it uses Windows 7. But Lenovo is introducing this line in China first and there is more more versions to come but later this year. Also Apple’s  iPad2 is on the horizon and there have been strong rumous that Steve Jobs and company see the light on meeting more than consumer desires and expectations. Finally, the dockable tablet/iPad has a attractive  home as well as business features. But so far Apple has proven to be allergic to USB, full HDMI pins, and horrors on eSata or anything Blu. So Steve Jobs, in the interest of being proprietary, may leave the ball game open to Android, webOS, RIM QNX and other players.

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