Over the past week, 140,000 visitors to the annual Consumer Electronics Show saw the best of what the industry can muster. The reaction of many went something like, "Is that it?" There were of course dozens of tablets (Wikipedia currently lists 76, a number already out of date), and the industry believes (prays?) this is at last the year for 3-D TV. Most of these entries will fail for classic reasons -- they are the result of technology-push rather than consumer pull, and corporate planning processes favor incremental me-too innovations vs. game-changing efforts.
Yet there were exceptions, perhaps most notably the Motorola Atrix. At first glance, the Atrix is an unremarkable Android smartphone -- competent but indistinct. The trick lies in its accessories. While the Atrix works just fine as an ordinary phone, it can also be plugged into a dedicated screen to convert into an ultra-sleek laptop. The phone provides the processor and memory for the laptop, which results in 1) no need to sync devices 2) a super-portable and likely inexpensive laptop and 3) the ability to use Android apps in an entirely new way. The Atrix also plugs into an HDTV to make movies and photos highly accessible.
The beauty of this idea is fourfold.