Can the Atrix 4G really become your next PC?

You can run the full desktop Firefox on your TV or monitor, but Motorola's dockable smartphone is only a half-step into the mobile/PC convergence future

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You can control your AT&T U-verse video service if you subscribe to that, but it makes more sense to do so from your iPhone, iPad, or Android device using the U-verse app. More usefully, you can run a Facebook window on the Atrix. It seems silly to have Facebook as a separate app as you can access Facebook via Firefox or your Atrix's Social Networking app.

But you can't install Linux apps on the Atrix, so you can't treat the Atrix as a companion Linux PC. (Fortunately, the universe of Android apps continues to grow.)

It's true that nothing else can do what the Atrix can do. The iPad comes closest, with its support of Bluetooth keyboards and ability to connect to VGA-equipped TVs, monitors, and projectors -- but you can't mirror the iPad to the presentation device, only show the screens of apps that have implemented Apple's display-out protocol. The iPhone too can output to VGA for such apps, but it doesn't support Bluetooth keyboards. Additionally, no iOS device offers a full desktop browser as the Atrix dock does.

The question is whether having a full desktop browser available through your Atrix is sufficient reason to invest in the docking hardware. If your computing needs are light -- if you're the kind of person for whom Google Docs or Microsoft Office 365 are all you need beyond email and the Web -- maybe the docked Atrix is really your one-stop device.

The cost of making your Atrix into a docked PC for such usage is actually not bad: At $400, the Lapdock is less than a netbook, and the $200 Multimedia Dock is even cheaper if you already have the other peripherals and don't need to travel. Any company or agency that is considering moving its staff from Microsoft Office to Google Docs should look into the Atrix with a dock, at least for those employees to whom it issues or supports smartphones. (Perhaps the forthcoming Chrome OS laptops will fit the bill for the others.)

If your computing needs are greater than that, the Atrix is not enough. Still, the Atrix's dockability is a step in the direction of lightweight mobile devices becoming the new PC. The idea is great, and at some point we'll see a device that fully delivers on the "lite" PC concept. Perhaps it will be a future version of the Atrix or a future iPad or iPhone. Whatever the final product, you can be confident: It will happen.

This article, "Can the Atrix 4G really become your next PC?," was originally published at Read more of Galen Gruman's Mobile Edge blog and follow the latest developments in mobile technology at Follow Galen's mobile musings on Twitter at MobileGalen. For the latest business technology news, follow on Twitter.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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