What is the best way to combine a cell phone and a laptop?

[2011-01-06] mobile, hci, cloud, motorola, computers
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The Motorola Atrix cell phone in its laptop-like “docking station” [source].
Motorola is taking another shot at the idea that a cell phone is mainly a computing core and only needs a full-sized keyboard and a larger screen to become a laptop. It’s been done before and I think it mainly appeals to engineers who, because they are trained to see patterns, tend to abstract too much. Is there a better solution for integrating the myriad of devices we own? How about the following?
  • Let us assume that you own a desktop computer, a laptop and a cell phone. You are thus in contact with a swarm of devices that always at least comprises the cell phone. In contrast to Motorola’s approach, each member of the swarm is a dedicated device.
  • Cloud-sync the swarm data. If you are offline, you can still sync between peers (e.g. between the cell phone and the laptop). This makes the swarm feel like a single system. Additionally, it backs the data up.
  • I like the idea that a cell phone can temporarily borrow another device’s input mechanisms. Say, you stay at an apartment with a desktop computer and only have your cell phone with you. The best way to do this is to use web applications (calendar, email, contacts, etc.). If you are offline, these apps can be run directly from the cell phone, served via Wi-Fi. Otherwise, you’ll run it via a web server on the internet and sync with the phone afterwards. Note that this also works for a cell phone and a laptop.