The dumb laptop concept isn’t new. Connect a cellphone to the unit and the phone becomes a CPU. Motorola tried it before with the Atrix Lapdock, and Nexdock is marketing a dumb laptop for other mobile devices including iPhones. Apple seems to want to get into the game, but it’s doing so with style. The latest iPhones are powerful computers unto themselves, and it would be cool to project that power into a larger screen and give it a keyboard. Aside from the iPad Pro, Apple seems really serious in turning iOS into a true productivity tool. Apple just registered a patent for its own dumb laptop that will be powered by an iPhone.
Nexdock actually has a great idea as many phones today are basically powerful computers. They just need larger screens and a keyboard. Their docking station takes full advantage of Microsoft’s Continuum feature for Windows Phones, can use Android phones and even tiny computers like the Raspberry Pi and lately, Intel’s Compute Card. The unit that supports the Compute Card turns intel’s CPU into something similar to PCMCIA cards. The Compute Card becomes a touchscreen tablet computer while its dumb laptop concept, however, is quite clumsy. Since it can support higher-end phones and tiny computers, these units are tethered via cable making the implementation flexible but clumsy.
Apple has improved on the idea by allowing an iPhone to dock with the unit wirelessly or via lightning port—or if rumors are true, via USB Type C for the iPhone 8. The phone will be docked just under the keyboard turning its screen into the laptop’s touchpad. Quite ingenious. The Atrix implementation places the phone just behind the screen on a protruding rear like with early laptops. The ASUS Padfone has a slot for the phone right behind the screen. Apple’s implementation is a big improvement by utilizing the phone’s screen as a touchpad. It’s space-saving, practical and elegant at the same time.
Would this work? No doubt about it. Apple users won’t need to carry around two or more computing devices. They won’t need to have an iPad and iPhone or even carry a Macbook. That depends on the apps required for the work of course. Would this concept take off? It’s Apple. People might like it, but it will still depend on Apple’s pricing. If Apple prices this docking station the way they do their other devices, it probably won’t fly. The pitch of competitor Nexdock is that their product is the world’s cheapest laptop because of the absence of a CPU. People who are into this concept would rather get the Nexdock as it will also come handy with Android phones and headless mini computers. If Apple prices this competitively and markets it with compelling apps, Apple could cash in with many iPhone users.
Will this concept cannibalize the iPad market? When it comes to iPhone users it will. Why buy an iPad when they can make their iPhones bigger and more useful? But for iPad users, there’s good news as there is a version for iPads as well. The other version will use the iPad’s as the screen as the iPad docks with the clamshell lid. It may not be as light as a simple keyboard case, but it’s much more elegant and practical as it has better lap-ability. This device if it gets made, is probably Apple’s way of making the iPad great again as the tablet market has really slowed down. To get more iPads out there, Apple had to release a cheaper version a few days ago along with a beautiful red iPhone 7. This device should complement that iPad nicely.
There’s not much further info, but hopefully, this device has a USB port or two as well as a display port or HDMI port to connect to projectors. These ports will make this device popular with road warriors and help get iOS further into the enterprise.