Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Motorola Atrix is the reincarnation of IBM Meta Pad circa 2002

It's no secret that I'm a slow adopter of mobile technology. It comes down to one reason: IBM spoiled me with the Meta Pad. This little gem debuted out of IBM Research in 2002. That's right, nearly 10 years ago IBM was touting a mobile computer you could carry with you and connect to various docks for different purposes. Antelope Technology licensed the Meta Pad and sold it as the Mobile Computer Core. People stayed away in droves. It was incredibly expensive, heavy, bulky and slow. Antelope Tech closed its doors within a couple of years.

IBM's idea of carrying your computer with you and just plugging it in to different form factors has stuck with me for the last decade. I knew what was possible and I wouldn't settle for anything else. I never bought a smartphone because I didn't want a phone. I wanted a mobile device that was a lot more flexible.

Other devices entered this space, most notably the Oqo and FlipStart. To me they were awkward compromises, and they're still prohibitively expensive. The closest I have found to meet my wish list was the SmartBook from Always Innovating. The only problem with that is it's only WiFi. I wanted something I could use as a phone, but since the SmartBook was so close I was seriously considering purchasing it. I never expected any manufacturer to build what I wanted.

Then Motorola announced the Atrix. I read a review of it and I was stunned how closely this mirrored IBM's goals from a decade ago. It's a phone. Dock it and you can play music and videos to your home entertainment system, using a remote. Connect a keyboard and fire up a full version of Firefox. Insert into a laptop chassis and enjoy a larger screen while traveling. And it's not insanely expensive.

Thank you, IBM, for showing the world what was possible. You're often ahead of your time, but I'm glad in this case it has come full circle.

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