Motorola's Atrix bends the definition of mobile computing

Motorola Mobility's Atrix Android smartphone, announced separately by both AT&T and Motorola yesterday, is drawing crowds on the CES showfloor today. After talking to Motorola and getting some solid hands-on time with it, I can say it's an easy contender for the best announcement of the show.

The Atrix is not so much a smartphone as a dockable cloud computer, and without its impressive feature-enhancing docks, could have easily gone unnoticed against the dozens of tablet announcements coming from CES this year. Because without these docks, it would just be another Android smartphone; albeit one with mind-bending specs.

But with them, it becomes clear that Atrix is much more forward-looking than your average superphone; it hints at a future where a device is not defined by the screen that is built into it, but is defined instead by the user's needs at the moment.

In this way, it's an anti-gadget. Yes, these docks are undoubtedly "gadgets" in nature, that make Atrix a Swiss Army knife of a mobile computer. But the real power of Atrix comes from the fact that it eschews a single form factor and hybridizes a mobile OS with a device-agnostic Webtop interface.

All of these gadgety components are to show off a platform that can be applied to a mobile computer, television, or desktop PC depending on what you need it to be. And if you take all those away, it is still a powerful smartphone.

The big question is: Is this a gimmick device, or is this a new class of devices for Motorola?

Naturally, Motorola dodged the question; but said that it is the first question lots of people --especially internally-- ask when they see the device in action. We can only hope that there will be other Motorola devices that adopt a similar approach to mobile computing...or at least that also use these cool docks.

SEC Disclosure: Tim Conneally owns stock in Motorola Mobility and Solutions.

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