Smartphones

Poll: Are PC/smartphone hybrids a key part of the future?

Time for technology professionals to make your voice known on whether you see a future for the hybrid smartphone/PC.

Here's what Ubuntu for Android looks like in action. Photo credit: Canonical

I've written about the convergence of PCs and smartphones recently with stories on Motorola Webtop and Ubuntu for Android. This could potentially have very important implications for business computing, IT departments, and the enterprise. These hybrid PC/smartphone devices can become effective thin clients, accessing business apps via the Web browser or over the network using VPN and Citrix. In some cases, the phones will even be powerful enough to locally run native apps, which will be needed to access custom business solutions at some organizations.

We'd like to know what you think about the possibility of these mobile devices becoming full-fledged computers when it's time to sit down and get a lot of work done. Does this simplify the equation for users and IT by consolidating two devices into one? Does it make it easier to manage data by not having to shuffle it across multiple devices? Does the single point of failure create greater risk?

Let us know your thoughts by responding to the poll and then jumping into the discussion below.

Take the poll

About

Jason Hiner is Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He writes about the people, products, and ideas changing how we live and work in the 21st century. He's co-author of the upcoming book, Follow the Geeks (bit.ly/ftgeeks).

22 comments
techrepublic@
techrepublic@

... may find a small computing device like a smartphone that can morph in to desktop, laptop, or tablet a very attractive option. There are many use cases to such a device that may be of interest to many. Have a presentation on your phone and want to put it in a big screen to give a presentation? Connect it to a projector or large TV and go. Have a document on the phone and want to view or edit it in a efficient manner? Dock it to a monitor, mouse and keyboard and immediately start working on it in a efficient manner. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wzc0uMXGFBY Have a vacation video or photos on your phone and want to show it to the family and friends? Connect it to a TV and watch it on a big screen. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZQozs5tXxwY Cost is also a factor to consider. Many businesses already provide a smartphone and a desktop or laptop to their workers. There is a obvious cost savings potential here. For consumers, cost is a even more relevant factor and may drive many to these converged devices. From a personal perspective, I need a powerful workstation for work and for now smartphones don't cut it but for the rest of my computing needs I can see devices like these in my future.

reggaethecat
reggaethecat

When you pick it up out of the dock to answer it, is all your work safe? You wouldn't be able to carry on working whilst talking because your computer is next to your ear. You wouldn't want it on speaker if it's a private call. So you could use a headset but that's then more kit/cost/complexity. And if you lose/break your phone, that's all your productivity gone. Why would you not just have a cheap laptop/desktop/tablet? If all your stuff is in the cloud you can work on it from any device anywhere - including your mobile if you're out and about - so why restrict your power to a mobile when you're sat at your desk? Personally I don't think this will catch on, you've got most of the cost of a workstation/PC (dock, keyboard, monitor, mouse, PSU etc) with none of the benefits (CPU & memory performance etc).

T3CHN0M4NC3R
T3CHN0M4NC3R

I think most people are thinking of old computing models and topologies when talking about cloud. IMHO, cloud isn't just about that. People just misunderstand or misinterpret. Cloud will transform business computing, IT departments, and the enterprise. But, nobody and nothing are stopping us from purchasing super gaming rig or higher powered workstations for various usage. Business Executives don't need a computer with Quad SLi/Crossfire + 64GB RAM to work with Excel, Word & Powerpoint do they? Even today, a normal dual-core that probably worth US$300-500 netbook or desktop PC. is more than enough for their type of usage. So what exactly does cloud gives us? Freedom. With the increase of processing power + energy efficiency on mobile devices (namely phones and tablets), why not? I wouldn't think of mobile phones as dumb clients. They are far more capable than that. They just lack storage space. Today's phone are already starting to be equipped with quad-core processors and powered by variable great OS's. How dumb is that? I have used my phone to manage my company's Active Directory, remote access to servers, and so on. I don't think my phone is all that dumb. It basically does what my laptop can do except for storing GB's of files. So, yeah, mobile device/computer hybrid would be great.

dhays
dhays

I see no need for it, so I voted NO. I have a smart phone for convenience only, it is not even allowed on the work network, as it is a personal phone, and it has no docking capabilities, its only outside interface is a micro USB connector, through which it can be charged and/or connected to a computer. It might have bluetooth capabilities, but I have never tried to use them. As someone said earlier, phones would have to be redesigned to allow for such a feature. I just heard this morning (5/7/12) that phone prices will be going up and carriers won't be subsidizing them as much and the usage prices will be going up as well. I guess I won't be upgrading this year, if that is the case. The phone is convenience, I wouldn't even try to do any real work with it, the screen is too small, the keyboard is small, it takes a long time to access the internet over the air...It complains when it hasn't been restarted in a week's time... If it gets too expensive, I may have to go back to just a phone! Someone does not proofread their articles beofre summarizing them in an email: "Recommended Risks and Benefits of Socing Networking in Business Rapid growth of social networking requires that today's businesses provide and support this communication medium. This resource discusses risks and advantages of social networking in the enterprise." I saw this and had to read it several times to figure out what socing was supposed to be, I am guessing it is social. Hal 9000: it is were not where.

Bob_or_Fred
Bob_or_Fred

With how often people break or lose their phones, there will be some big thinking as to why you're giving someone who only works at a desk a smartphone for a computer. Yes, people who are more mobile will get benefits from it, but not everyone is that mobile. In addition, the no-contract costs of smart phones is quite high, easily comparable or higher than a desktop. Additionally, there's lifespan. We have several desktops that have lasted 4 or 5 years, and we still use them (while admittedly, they are quite slow) because they still do what's needed. Oh and last of finally, when thinking of moving to a smartphone for a PC... Employee theft? All they have to do is wipe the memory and they have a black market ready phone, just replace the SIM card and you're good to go. (the non-removable SIM in the iPhone finally can be advertised as a feature!) At least they're easier to support. Software issues? Wipe and reimage. Hardware issues? Replace.

Vulpinemac
Vulpinemac

Rather, I think you'll find them a fad that flies for about a year or two and fades away again like the netbook of the middle '00s. Why? because with the exception of a rare few phones, too few have a standardized connection in a standarized location that would make such a docking system more universally favorable and very few people will want to buy a new docking display every time they buy a new phone. It may be a great idea to try and lock people into a given brand of phone on renewal, but if the customer has decided that he wants something different, his existing docking unit is now worthless and a wasted expense. Personally, I expect to see something more along the lines of the ASUS Transformer package where subsequent models of the transformer tablet could have all the connections standardized for type and location making it that much easier to simply set the tablet into the dock and go. If need be, such a dock could be a part of a laptop-style case that hides the tablet behind the larger display. The drawback quickly becomes one of forgetting to un-dock it and carrying it along when you need to go mobile. So, no, I don't believe such hybrids will be key--at least, not with phones. The 'toy' aspect of such a configuration will wear off much too quickly.

stephen.holland
stephen.holland

If all the compute is in the Cloud - think large DB queries and complex spereadsheets, Cloud Computing takes us back to mainframes and Terminals. Smartphones are the personal device. Just like I wouldn't edit a movie or a Picture properly on a low end laptop, why would I want to do this on a Smartphone wit less power and memory, unless the heavy lifting is in the cloud, then we are back at my 1st paragraph. We have spent 30 years disconnecting people from the mainframe, to be pushing them back there with cloud and virtualisation. I don't get it.

drespino
drespino

I think it is the best solution for personal computing more than for business computing, I'm just waiting for the first Smartphone with Android-Ubuntu to change mi iphone..

bill
bill

I think Microsoft have missed an opportunity here. I remember talking to Steve Ballmer at a conference in Barcelona in the mid-late 90s about MS being in the idea situation to drive the market adoption of mobile and PC technologies within the GSM arena. All this time later Android are actually delivering the technology that Microsoft had in their grasp for nearly 20 years........

buck_lane
buck_lane

I love the idea of being able to point to one device and say "thats got all the things!" I have a linux desktop and an android smartphone anyway, why not merge them? I know this will not be a full desktop replacement, as people still enjoy their high powered desktops for games, graphics and the like. The biggest feature is being able to take my secure connected work desktop with me whereever i go, less stuff to backup, and less enviornments to change and configure. throw in a laser projector and keyboard and im good to go.

spdragoo
spdragoo

This "solution" presupposes that future office workers will need to have access to their work data & apps from multiple locations. If that's not a problem for the worker, however, then there's no "need" for this so-called 'solution'. Not to mention I have yet to hear [b]any[/b] proposal to provide tablets, let alone smartphones, with the ability to hook directly into wired networks, thereby avoiding the power drain of maintaining Wi-Fi/3G/4G connections. So, unless the future prognosticators are going to claim that we will all be expected to be on call 24/7 by our employers, and forced to take our work-provided smartphones along wherever we go -- including on our so-called "vacations" -- then I don't see this being implemented on a widespread basis.

techrepublic@
techrepublic@

"What happens when the phone rings?" "So you could use a headset but that's then more kit/cost/complexity." Headset is the obvious answer. I already use a headset with my phone, and holding the phone to ones hear is a hindrance while working anyway. "And if you lose/break your phone, that's all your productivity gone." Also true for laptops, tablets and similar portable devices! "Why would you not just have a cheap laptop/desktop/tablet?" Most people want/need a phone so if one can get a smarphone that can also replace a "cheap laptop/desktop/tablet" then one will save money. "If all your stuff is in the cloud you can work on it from any device anywhere" All my stuff is not in the cloud (I don't want my stuff there) and even if it is having it already on the device is much faster, cheaper and is not dependent on the availability of a internet connection. "so why restrict your power to a mobile when you're sat at your desk?" The power of most recent mobiles (e.g. Galaxy S3's quadcore 1.4GHz CPU) is enough for the computing needs of most people.

Slayer_
Slayer_

I also think the phone OS will become a problem when used in a business network. At least as they are right now. A simple example, is there an app that secretly monitors your USB ports and detects when an unauthorized device or flash drive is connected and sends an email to your boss? I know that sounds extreme, but we have that where I work. ...Don't worry, as part of the core development team, I am exempt from those rules. But as a core dev, a smart phone would never have the power needed for me, so that's a non issue.

rhonin
rhonin

Cloud is only as good as your connection - lose it and you are all or partly DIW. The ability to drive from the portable device locally without a internet connection would be a great driver. This would be great at home - can see the kids (or wife) plug in their device and doing what they need and then unplug and leave when done.

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

It's this weeks Marketing Hype what's to get? They are pushing Dumb Terminals all over again because those buying the stuff now days where not around when we dumped that stuff as being inefficient and expensive. Even Thin Clients where a major attempt to move back to Central Processing with what where effectively upgraded Dumb Terminals, though granted with the newer Technology the Main Frame was much Smaller and called a Blade and the Network Speeds which supported these devices had improved dramatically so it was almost useful to use like this. ;) Col

Skruis
Skruis

It goes in cycles.

Skruis
Skruis

They do have the opportunity to get back in the game with WP8/W8/RT. Now, not counting if you like Metro or not, if the rumors are true that Win8's core is being brought to WP8, it stands to reason that perhaps WP8 might actually be a subset of WRT itself which might mean that if docked, you also have a WRT device/slate (depending on your docking device). That would be pretty slick...but for business, I don't see it being a huge feature...probably niche.

rhonin
rhonin

I would rather see this as a smartphone OR tablet plug in option driving a "desktop".

CPPCrispy
CPPCrispy

The picture in the article shows the smartphone on a dock. The dock could have the ethernet connection, USB, and also be able to charge the phone.

rhonin
rhonin

At home I currently have a "central" desktop for use by any family member and a guest account for visitors..... I would really be interested in seeing this replaced with a smartphone or tablet plug-in instead.

spdragoo
spdragoo

Nor are they universal. Most smartphones use some sort of proprietary port to connect the charging/data cable, which means that the docking stations will have to a) be built to the same proprietary standards (i.e. Samsung-only station for Samsung phones), or b) the cost of the docking station will go up because it will need to have [b]all[/b] of the appropriate cables available. Why is that an issue? Price. Unless you require all of your employees to also purchase an appropriate docking station, the company has to buy the docking stations for them. Considering that there's little standardization among the various phones, limiting your ability to standardize the docking stations means your procurement prices go up (i.e. you get the discount when you buy 1,000 docking stations of the same model, not when you buy 100 of model A/200 of model B/150 of model C/etc.). And if the company says, "we'll let you BYOD...provided it's smartphone X", then you're defeating the supposed purpose of BYOD, and the employees might as well ask the company to provide the smartphone in the first place...which defeats the company's purpose of short-term cash savings. More importantly... show me the smartphone [b]currently[/b] that can use the data cable to show what's on its existing display on an existing monitor. I have yet to see a data cable with a microUSB plug on 1 end and a DVI or HDMI plug on the other, let alone that the smartphone actually knows how to recognize the monitor in the first place. That will at minimum require a significant update to the phone OSs, if not a change in hardware. So, no, I don't expect this anytime soon... if ever.

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

Have you ever used a Smart Phone to attempt to do any of the things you do on a Desktop? I would guess not as they are underpowered, Under resourced and generally speaking way too slow for anything but what they do and even that is slow compared to what a computer does. Sure they are portable but being considerably slower and far more expensive to use is the killer here. ;) OH and would you be willing to leave your Phone at home so that it could be used by anyone who wanted access to the computer? Isn't it better to have a Single Function Device available for those who want to use it and your device available for you? Col

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