The Webtop concept flop: Was Motorola just too early?

Summary:Don't be surprised if Microsoft, Google, HP or even Apple picks up the Webtop baton at some point in the future.

Motorola Mobility's Webtop concept has been killed by Google, but the technology still could have legs. The big question is whether the Webtop was an idea ahead of its time or nutty to start with.

CNET's Roger Cheng confirms that Google has killed the Webtop. Motorola's Webtop, Google's Chromebook and Android just didn't mesh well together. It didn't help that the people behind the Webtop all left Motorola Mobility.

The concept of the Webtop revolved around using a smartphone as a central processing unit. It would then plug into a laptop-dock and become a PC. The Webtop, like many technologies was a critical success, but a mainstream flop. As Adrian Kingsley-Hughes noted , the price for the dock just wasn't right. And beyond road warriors, the market for folks that want to bridge a smartphone and laptop just wasn't all that large.

webtop
Credit: Jason Hiner

I had tested a few of Motorola's Webtop phones and docks and thought they were handy---a consolidation device if you will. However, these Webtops were clearly first generation efforts and not cut out to be Google's secret weapon.

Overall, it may be just a little too early for the Webtop concept. Here's a look at players who could pick up the Webtop baton.

  • Microsoft: Windows 8 is designed to work on multiple screens---tablets, PCs and smartphones. Given that unified kernel the key piece is in place to do a Webtop device consolidation. The Surface has two use cases and ultimately there could be a connection between the phone and a laptop.
  • Apple: If Apple took Motorola Mobility's concept of a Webtop, it would look better. Apple could couple iOS iPhones and iPads into a MacBook Air-ish design.
  • Google: Android and Chrome OS have to merge at some point right? When that inevitably happens, Google may attempt the Webtop smartphone meets dock play.
  • HP: HP has said it will make smartphones at some point, probably in 2013. To make any kind of splash, HP may want to ponder a Webtop scheme. HP could be that bridge between Windows 8 screen sizes. For good measure, HP could dust off WebOS somehow.

There are loose ends to nail down for the Webtop to get its sea legs. For starters, wireless charging would help. The dock with the phone was a power drain if it weren't plugged in. And then there's pricing. The dock needs to be pretty much a freebie. The Webtop concept seems appealing to road warriors, but may have just been too early.

Topics: Mobility, Hardware, Smartphones

About

Larry Dignan is Editor in Chief of ZDNet and SmartPlanet as well as Editorial Director of ZDNet's sister site TechRepublic. He was most recently Executive Editor of News and Blogs at ZDNet. Prior to that he was executive news editor at eWeek and news editor at Baseline. He also served as the East Coast news editor and finance editor at CN... Full Bio

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