Research In Motion CEO Thorsten Heins foresees a time when cellular phones could replace laptop computers. No, the strain of trying to revitalize RIM isn't driving him crazy, and enterprises shouldn't completely dismiss the idea.
The New York Times reported: " 'Whenever you enter an office, you don't have your laptop with you, you have your mobile computer power exactly here,' Mr. Heins said, patting a BlackBerry 10 phone sitting in a holster on his hip. 'You will not carry a laptop within three to five years.' "
Before you start laughing, consider this: Some phones already have better specifications than laptops of only a few years ago. Four years ago I wrote "Meet the New Laptop: Your Phone," where I discussed the increasing capabilities of handsets to tackle some functions previously the province of computers. Since I wrote that blog, phones have dramatically increased their performance, from single-core microprocessors to dual-core to quad-core and from screens with 720p resolution to even 1080p.
Consider, for example, the new HTC Droid DNA, which features a 1.5GHz quad-core Snapdragon S4 Pro microprocessor and a 5-inch screen with a resolution of 1080 x 1920 that translates into 441 pixels per inch.
With great power comes great
responsibility applications because handsets have the power to run more advanced apps. Cellular phones are getting better and integrating with desktop/laptop apps (such as the Windows Phone 8 Office Hub and its new OneNote app), Microsoft Office-compatible suites for iOS and Android, email servers like Exchange, and browsers with HTML5 compatibility to access online corporate apps.
Today, high-end smartphones have the power to display many corporate applications, especially with enterprise servers and third-party cloud services doing much of the processing, rather than the phones.
However, phones can't be used to replace laptops in part because of the latter's larger screens, superior keyboards, and much larger local storage. But what if a phone could be easily integrated into a laptop's shell or a tablet so the same information on the phone could be displayed and used on a larger device? That has been occurring, although it's still esoteric.
For example, Motorola developed a few Android phones, such as the Atrix 4G, that could be inserted into the shell of a laptop. Some of the phone's applications and a browser would be displayed on the shell's larger screen and keyboard. However, last month, Motorola discontinued the technology. One reason was because the combination of the phone and accessories was too expensive and not enough people purchased it.
But Motorola also noted: "We have also seen development of the Android operating system focus on the inclusion of more desktoplike [sic] features." This certainly highlights my point about the increasingly sophistication of cellphone capabilities.
But there's another company still championing the concept of integrating a phone into a portable device. Asus offers the PadFone 2, a powerful Android phone that can be inserted into the back of a tablet shell, called the PadFone Station 2. This is the company's second-generation PadFone handset and tablet combo. The PadFone 2 is a high-end smartphone, featuring a 1.5 GHz Snapdragon 4 Pro chip, 4.7-inch 720p display, 2GB of RAM, 13-megapixel back camera, video camera recording at 1080p, and near field communication (NFC).
The phone powers the tablet shell, which sports a 10.1-inch screen with 1280 x 800 resolution. The combination weighs 18.1 ounces, less than the newest iPad. While business users certainly can carry whatever phones and tablets they like, the PadFone combo allows for quick and easy integration of two portable devices.
RIM sells BlackBerry phones and PlayBook tablets, but I can't imagine it will go the Padfone route to create integrated devices. I can imagine, though, that the hardware of its new BlackBerry 10-based phones will be competitive with top smartphones, and thus, in some ways, be able to supplement laptops.
As phones increase in sophistication and screen size, "phablet" devices with 5-inch and 5.5-inch displays become common, and tablets are marketed as laptop replacements, the larger issue for enterprises is to evaluate what kind of computing power employees need and in what form they need it.