New Android smartphone to dock to laptop, desktop browser

The forthcoming Motorola Atrix could be a step toward the post-PC era

Motorola on Wednesday showed off a new Android smartphone, the Atrix, that connects to a docking station that looks like a laptop but has no CPU, so that users can access a full physical keyboard and monitor.

The Atrix 4G, to be sold by AT&T, runs a 1GHz dual-core processor, matching the power of full-size PCs from just a few years past. The smartphone hooks to the dock using an app called Motorola Webtop, which provides access to the full Firefox 3.6 desktop browser in addition to giving the smartphone keyboard and mouse input capabilities. "This is not desktop-like. This is the desktop browser running on this," said Sanjay Jha, CEO of Motorola Mobility. He unveiled the device at the AT&T Developers Summit at CES in Las Vegas.

[ InfoWorld's Galen Gruman outlines how smartphones will eventually replace PCs via dockable units. | iPhone, BlackBerry, or Android? Whatever handheld you use or manage, turn to InfoWorld for the latest developments. Subscribe to InfoWorld's Mobilize newsletter today. ]

The docking device weighs just over 2 pounds, said Jha, who did not disclose many more details about the dock, such as price or availability. Presumably users will be limited to the applications that can run on the Android smartphone.

Users of the Atrix will also be able to connect the smartphone into a different dock that will allow streaming to an HDTV or any HDMI-compatible monitor. The concept of pairing a mobile phone with a "dumb" device that features a larger keyboard and monitor is similar to one called the Foleo that Palm once announced but later killed.

Faster AT&T network promised
His announcement followed one from AT&T Mobility CEO Ralph de la Vega who said that the operator is speeding up the launch of its faster network. It now plans to launch LTE (Long Term Evolution) in the middle of this year, completing the network by the end of 2013. He credited recent tax law incentives for the new schedule, but the operator is also catching up with competitor Verizon which has already launched LTE in around 40 markets.

This year AT&T expects to launch 20 new 4G devices, which will include phones that run on the fast 3G HSPA+ technology as well as on LTE.

More Androids on AT&T's docket
In addition to the Motorola Atrix, AT&T customers will get access to a new HTC Android smartphone, the Inspire 4G. It will be the first from HTC to feature a new version of HTC Sense, a user interface overlay created by HTC. The Inspire will be compatible with a new service from HTC that will offer some remote capabilities that should appeal to enterprise users. For example, users will be able to remotely wipe the smartphones if they lose them.

AT&T will also this year sell the Infuse 4G from Samsung, a smartphone that will have a 4.5-inch screen, one of the largest on a smartphone. It will have a 1.2GHz processor and two cameras to allow for videoconferencing.

AT&T also plans to launch a tablet this year that runs AT&T's HSPA (High-Speed Packet Access) 3G technology where available (otherwise,it uses slower forms of 3G). It will come from Motorola, have a 10.1-inch screen, run a Nvidia dual-core processor, and be based on Android Honeycomb. Motorola is expected to reveal more details of the tablet at a press conference Wednesday.

Nancy Gohring covers mobile phones and cloud computing for the IDG News Service. Follow Nancy on Twitter at @idgnancy. Nancy's e-mail address is Nancy_Gohring@idg.com

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