The weird history of phone laptops

The weird history of phone laptops


Okay, so I have been making
videos about the future of computers for a little over a year now. We’ve looked at the iPad
and Chromebooks and the Mac and Windows, and you know what? They’re all great. But the real dream about the future of
computers wasn’t originally about any of those things. The real future of computing dream has always been about
this thing: the phone. So here’s a question: what’s the best way to turn
your phone into your computer? Here’s the truth: this already is your main computer. It’s the one that you use most often. But what I’m talking about is
making it your only computer. And to do that, you need
it to not be a phone thing, but a big thing with a keyboard and a big screen, right? And that is why Samsung created DeX. It’s the thing that lets you
plug your phone into a monitor, and suddenly, you get a desktop
interface for your phone. You may have heard
that with a Note 10, Samsung made apps for it that run on both Windows and the Mac, so I want to look at why DeX
exists and how it connects to that dream of making
your phone your computer because it seems like a great idea. Then it seems like a weird
idea. But the thing is, it’s definitely not an original idea. It wasn’t the first. This was: the Motorola Atrix. (laughs) It totally
wasn’t. You know it wasn’t. This was the first: the Celio Redfly. (laughs) I can’t. I can’t, no. This wasn’t the first, but maybe you know what the first was, what the OG was. The never-released,
canceled-at-the-last-minute, so-far-ahead-of-its-time, it-was-never-meant-to-live Palm Foleo. Yeah, sorry. I’ve got to talk about Palm again. But actually, all three of these things, they’re ancient history,
but they totally apply to what’s happening with DeX today. So let’s go back to 2007. The iPhone had been
announced, but in May 2007, it hadn’t yet been released. Palm was busy making the Trio, but it was really obvious that Palm OS or Windows Mobile weren’t
going to last very long, and everybody wanted to know how Palm was going to respond to the iPhone, so it announced this wacky
thing: the Palm Foleo. It was the brainchild of
Jeff Hawkins who founded Palm and actually deserves a
lot of credit for many of the ideas that are inside
your smartphones right now. And what the Palm Foleo
is is fundamentally a tiny little Linux laptop. It was a thin client, but
I mean not literally thin. Look at it. It’s pretty thick, but thin in the sense
that you weren’t supposed to save anything on the Foleo itself. Instead, it was meant to
get all of its information from the phone. It was like a remote control for a Trio, but it also ran some of its own stuff. It was a little confusing. So then the iPhone gets released in June, and it was a big deal, and
Palm had to deal with it because the Trio wasn’t good enough, and everybody knew it. Engadget wrote an open letter to Palm telling it to get its act together. And so by September, Palm just canceled the Foleo
before it was ever released. Then in 2008, we got this thing, which is the Celio Redfly. It was a dummy terminal
for Windows Mobile 6.5, and I owned one because I’m a maniac, but it was bad. And then finally in 2011, we got the one that you might remember. It’s the Motorola Atrix. It worked a lot like the
Palm Foleo was supposed to. It was a dummy terminal for your phone, but it also ran Linux, and it
had a Firefox web browser. It was successful enough for Motorola to make two versions of it. This is the second version
right here, but that was it. It was canceled. Okay, welcome back. Now, in 2019, why do we
care about all this stuff? Well, let’s start with DeX. Before the Note 10, it
worked like these things. You just had to bring your
own monitor and keyboard. But now, it works differently
because it’s also an app that you can run inside
Windows or on a Mac. And just to get it out of the way, it’s not great on those apps. It’s a little bit slow. I have a hard time transferring files, and it’s pretty buggy. But it is convenient for
small things like texting or copying and pasting
stuff into your phone if you want it later. But that’s a totally different idea. It’s not the dream of making
your phone into your computer. It’s just putting your
phone inside the computer that you already have. Maybe that’s the best
that we can hope for. You see, all of these
laptop things failed. The Foleo was straight-up canceled, and the most successful
of them was the Atrix, and they only made two versions of it. And as I’m looking at them, I can’t help but notice
that two out of the three of these things are just Linux laptops. Sure, they mirror stuff from your phone, but the truth is that
if you’re going to build a screen and a keyboard to
mirror stuff from your phone, you’re also going to need some
chips to do some computation to make all of the syncing
work. And at that point, you’re already building a Linux laptop, so you might as well just
build a Linux laptop. It’s not that much more
expensive to add in the extra components that you need to make a full-on laptop, and that generally leads to a much faster and better experience. And you know who did that? Google with the Chromebooks
that started shipping in 2011, the same year as the Motorola Atrix. And also, by the way, the iPad started taking off
at around the same time. You see, what Chromebooks and
iPads have in common is this: they know that the important thing isn’t what your computer is; it’s where your data is. Some of it is local, yeah, but usually, the most important data comes from and gets saved to the cloud. And so while, sure, we could
have decided as a society that the source of truth for
our data should be our phones. Instead, we decided that most
of it should be in the cloud. That means that the dream
of turning your phone into your only computer is part of our collective
idea of what we used to think the future would look like. And then we went ahead and
created a different future, the one we live in now, where
our data lives in servers on the internet instead of
the computer in our pocket. That makes me realize that
while DeX and these things here are way cooler ideas than just putting your data in the cloud, they’re
nowhere near as practical. Now, there is one other
super cool futuristic way of turning your phone
into your main computer. That would be unfolding it, and yeah… we’ll see if that works out
better than any of these things. Hey, thank you so much for watching, and I promise I didn’t make this video just to have an excuse
to talk about Palm again. But I got to talk about
Palm again, so that’s great. If you’ve ever had a Palm phone, let’s talk about it in
the comments, because Palm.

100 thoughts on “The weird history of phone laptops

  1. I'm wondering "why on earth would you use DeX in a computer/laptop if you already have a strong OS tu use instead of weak one like DeX" 🤦🏽‍♂️

  2. Apple already does a bunch of this stuff with continuity and especially with the new app development ecosystem. So, as you said, the practicality of having our data in the cloud has won over the "turn your phone into a computer" thing. There would always be edge case applications for this, but most people who "need" to use a computer, usually have a computer.

    The iPad Pro, once truly unlocked (iPad-OS direction), in a world where everyone uses FaceTime and iMessage, is basically this very thing, turned up to 12.

  3. To say the atrix was like the others as in a thin Linux box that runs Firefox is a lie.

    The atrix doc is a monitor. Battery keyboard and mouse.

    You can use it for your raspberry pi or anything where you need a HDMI monitor keyboard and mouse.

    That was the dream I bought into.
    But you're right. The future is things like the Chromebook.

    We were in Colombia and my wife needed something from her computer. She opened my Chromebook and logged in and was blow away that with her passwords and shortcuts and full keyboard and mouse she pretty much had access to her home computer or what she thought was there.

  4. I still own and occasionally use (flex) a pre 3 and a veer. Even Joshua Topolsky recently wrote an article on his website where he tried to use a palm 3 as his main device with mixed results!

  5. Since you mentioned Linux's role in all of this, why didn't you mention what Ubuntu tried to do both hardware and software-wise with Convergence and Ubuntu Edge?

  6. All I want is a phone that can expand into the size of a tablet, but also can be put in a dock (like the Nintendo Switch) that has modules for greater gpu power, processor speed, storage, etc.

  7. It's just me or the Linux and Windows phone continuity approaches have just been completely disregarded in this video?

  8. The future will be, we will be buying phones that doesn't have a cpu, only a signal/wifi receiver and gigabit internet where the OS will be streamed. This will eliminate the need for high end mobile cpu and gpus and also storage. Everything will be streamed to your screen. See you in 2050

  9. The only sweet thing about DeX is that you can receive/answer messages from your computer, like on Apple devices.

  10. it is the apps. the touch-optimized apps are never gonna work perfectly with the mouse and keyboard combo. perhaps it is my use case. I have tested with s10 DeX and tried ipad pro 12.9 ipados touch assist but I could never get slides or 'multi-app' tasks done smoothly. so now will have to wait for a windows or mac os portable solution.

  11. You don't even mention MHL or USB OTG, which, together with a keyboard, mouse and screen are enough to use your phone as a desktop computer. No additional computing power required

  12. Idk if you've done this already but you should make a video on your ideal future of computing and the devices that make up that future.

  13. I wish Google and Microsoft partners together someday and creates a seamless way to sync data between Android phone and windows laptop. Similar to Mac and iPhone. Would made life a lot easier.

  14. I had one for around a year. It was my first phone (btw 19 now). My dad gave it to me when his company switched to BlackBerry. The pen was very cool. I felt like being in a movie while using it. Great phone!!!!!

  15. I forget whether it was at MWC or CES but that Razer prototype laptop where your phone inserts itself into the laptop and becomes the trackpad was the coolest and most intuitive application of this concept

  16. I think the dream is you would put your phone into the space where your trackpad is on a laptop today and have that be your only computational device. With how good mobile chips are getting today I think its viable, definitely something apple could hypothetically do in the future if they get macos/ipad os applications developed together.

  17. Any of these hibrid devices are prompt to fail. Windows nowdays is a horrible experience because of this, since 2008 they have tried to mix a touch-based UI with a keyboard and mouse UI, and it doesen't work very well. The same can be said about phones that unfold into a tablet, it doesen't work very well, the main reason being that screens that fold will break very easily, you will fold and unfold this thing all day, at one point it will definately fail due to stress in the material, it's physics, you can't run away from it. There's a reason we create different devices for diferent tasks, and that's ok, we don't need to merge evrything togheter.

  18. Another great video! As much as those thin clients failed; I do miss the fact that Samsung could of done the same thing with Dex with some super thin device to dock the Galaxy phones. But maybe you’re right; we just need to be able to assure the data we have the phone is accessible on various devices rather than just trying to get the phone to be the one central point.

  19. I hate the cloud! Wish almost everything could be local. I fully want a smartphone that can plug into a laptop as the touchpad

  20. Good to see verge working on different videos on such really interesting videos. Keep up the good work. By the way lonh time no see bohn. 👍

  21. I remember when my friend had smartphone from Asus. Transformer Phone of something like that. You had phone, tablet, and a keyboard. You plug your phone on the back of the tablet (it had special slot), and phone acted as brain of a tablet, which was mirroring Android UI (phone UI -> tablet UI). Then you could use it as a tablet, or plug it into a keyboard which acted as well as a dock with more battery in it. With that you literally could turn your phone into you computer. I want Samsung to release product like that nowadays. For example – S11 which will run standard Android and if you will plug it into the tablet it will change into the Dex mode.

  22. I watched this video and typed this response from my Note 10+ DeX.
    The best way to turn your phone into your computer is Samsung DeX.
    All you need is an S8 or higher, a cheap monitor, bluetooth keyboard and bluetooth mouse.

    You said our phone is already our main computer, we keep our documents, photos, videos, audio, programs(apps) and passwords one one device. If we use DeX we still have all that information on one device and now it's on a bigger screen with a full web browser…now it can be our ONLY Computer. If you absolutely need to be portable, Samsung DeX works on the Galaxy Tab S4, S5e, and S6 that can come with keyboard cases.

    Yes, if you already have a windows or mac machine, you can use DeX with those devices.

    We know DeX is not an original idea, but Samsung has been the only ones to get it right thus far.
    All most people need is a full-screen web browser. Through DeX, I can still make phone calls, text, video chat, browse the web, use G-Suite, access my passwords through biometrics, print papers, use a bluetooth keyboard, mouse, headphones, speakers and manage all my files through ONE DEVICE.

    I nolonger have to pay for a iPhone, iPad, Macbook, and an iMac.
    All you need to get most things done is a Samsung device and maybe a tablet if you want to be portable.

    For the gamers, video/photo editors, and people that absolutely need a specific Mac/Windows program, DeX isn't for them. But most people who just use a web browser and access cloud info, DeX will be just fine. It's way faster than a Chromebook and faster than a crappy windows machine.

  23. To answer your question, No. You hit the nail on the head; when the cloud became the standard for how we store our data. The computer phone idea became obsolete.

    I'd choose and iPhone and iPad Pro combo over a Samsung and Dex combo because it seems like Apple has embraced and executed on this cloud world we now live in much better. It will be interesting to see if Samsung has any plans to evolve Dex into a Cloud computing environment. Kinda like Chrome OS.

  24. Glad the first thing pop out in Youtube is your video about future computers you promised to make~ like you sir I myself is too a future computer maniac XD

  25. Isn't Huawei option to connect it just on TV or Montor? Ideal for watching photos and videos and presentations… maybe even gaming.

  26. I think a very honorable mention needs to be given to the HP Elite X3, the last Windows Phone. It had a wireless Lapdock that functioned pretty well, all things considering. Windows' mobile platform was still limited but with HPs virtualization apps made desktop productivity get REAL close to this ideal. Granted this was an enterprise device that never really made it to anyone but the most diehard consumers, but I was impressed with it.

  27. I still have my Pre and Pixie somewhere in my office. I LOVED my palm phones. And I LOVED the Palm OS on the HP touchpad which I also still have kicking around my office. Don't have much use for them these days but it's fun to use the touchpad from time to time. It's still has a decent browser.

  28. This video is released because Galaxy Fold is near and Samsung bribed/sponsored Verge to remind people the importance of foldable phones, just before all the excitements fall….

  29. Hey Dieter! Can you do a followup video explaining Dex's shortcomings and the ways it can be improved? That way Samsung can further work upon it in the future versions. Moreover, other smartphone manufacturers will also be inspired to do so.

  30. I had atrix lapdock. It was fun for a couple of hours but the overall reliance on slow net of the times made it unnecessary. I sold it shortly later which cut the price of the phone purchase by 50%. Whoever bought it, thank you again.

  31. There were also widely-backed crowdfund ventures more recently from the likes of Sentio (with the Superbook) and the eponymously named NexDock (which is back with NexDock 2 on Kickstarter presently). They were/are both, categorically, awful in most respects. But people are still out there trying it, despite the evidence from major players like Samsung suggesting that it's just not meant to be…

  32. Without the app, DeX turns into a more powerful computer than Chromebook.

    Also, ASUS made tablet docks for their phones. There was also the KT spider and many more.

  33. I had a few of the Palm Treo's. Started with the one that had the flip up front cover. Kinda like a flip phone but Palm lol. Even tried one of the later one's with Windows mobile. It was great for it's time

  34. Why is nobody building a Laptop-like Dex-dock? Imagine a Monitor with an attached keyboard and some battery that has an area where you can plug in your Samsung phone and this turns on the dock with Dex running on the monitor.

  35. I am glad you mentioned the Palm. I started with the original Pilot and that run ended with the Treo. Its too bad they lost their way. Palm had such a great cult-like following, which could have carried them into the future. All they needed to do was to keep innovating. I agree with your comment that it not about turning your phone into your computer, it's about being able to access your data from all devices.

  36. You should have included the one laptop where you can out in your smartphone in the place where there normally would be the touchpad. The laptop then only runs with the processor of the phone..i think

  37. You guys should mention the Asus Padfone series, which converted a phone into a tablet and into a laptop with a few accessories.

  38. I think project Linda from Razer is an interesting idea.. it might turn out to be a future alongside foldable/rollable smartphones

  39. I was wondering, watching this on my Chromebook, where you would go with this. (And I was also thinking of AirDrop.)

  40. Actually all the data is stored not just on the servers in the internet but on the servers of corporations. Your data is analyzed, they know everything about each one of us, our data sometimes works against us while being stored on theirs servers.

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