Why the Atrix 4G Can't Revolutionize Computing…Yet

The Atrix 4G is an exciting new entrant into the smartphone war. In addition to its powerful specs (1GHz dual-core processor, 1GB RAM, 16GB memory), this phone can also plug in to a laptop "shell" and interact with Motorola's webtop application on a full-sized screen. The device can also use a docking station to connect to a desktop PC or to your TV as an entertainment center, giving it four different potential use cases.

It's really quite interesting, and it has the makings of something the tech industry has dreamed about for years: a future where users will use one super powerful mobile device that can be plugged into a computer shell, a TV, your car, etc., and act as the central driver of your technological identity. It's a utopian contrast to our currently fragmented world of phones, computers, tablets, eReaders, mp3 players, DVD/Blu-Ray players, and so on.

 There's just one problem: the Atrix isn't ready to achieve this dream, in an enterprise or consumer setting.

Why not, you ask? There are a few simple reasons.

The Atrix can't replace a full-featured laptop/desktop. Having the laptop form factor is a huge step, but you're still running a mobile OS, and thus have limited capabilities. Being able to run a desktop version of Firefox is great, but the world just isn't cloudy enough to empower an information worker 24/7 without desktop software. And really, if the Atrix and its laptop shell can't replace your regular laptop or desktop, then it's adding to your gadget collection, not reducing.

Enterprise mobility management isn't quite there. Yes, it's true that software vendors have made huge strides, including remote control, the ability to push apps to mobile devices, and monitoring software that works across a variety of mobile OSs. But as it stands, users are still managed largely via their Windows (or Mac) clients. There are just too many unanswered questions about how these mobile-only identities would fit into the mix.

The Atrix and its peripherals are too expensive. When you add up the math of purchasing a $199 smartphone, a $299 laptop shell, and the full carrier plan, data plan, and $45 tethering plan, you're spending far more than you would on laptops for your organization. (And about the same cost as purchasing a company smartphone and laptop for users.) This makes it really hard to see how the benefits can outweigh the costs.

(Note: I didn't add the $129 cost for the docking station to use the Atrix with a desktop/TV, since that's not really part of the enterprise equation, but there is also that extra cost, for your awareness.)

In conclusion, the Atrix is no doubt a major innovation, and I bet we'll see huge strides very soon in the development of a "central device" that can power the technology in our lives. It starts in the consumer world with the Atrix, but it will eventually pervade into the enterprise world as well.

So keep an eye on the horizon, and consider the Atrix as a very competent smartphone competitor. Just don't go restructuring your organization to accommodate this brave new world yet.

Follow Brian Reinholz on Twitter

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