Wireless docking: How to kick-start the Windows 8 tablet into overdrive

Wireless docking: How to kick-start the Windows 8 tablet into overdrive

Summary: Imagine walking into your office and taking your Windows 8 tablet out of the bag. This single action automatically connects the tablet to the monitor, keyboard, and mouse. It's time for wireless docking to go mainstream.

Dell wireless dock
Dell Latitude Z wireless dock, circa 2009 -- Image credit: CNET

Imagine walking into the office, taking the little tablet out of the bag, and setting it in a stand on the desk. While doing this the tablet is wirelessly bridging to a dock that instantly connects the tablet to two monitors, keyboard, and mouse. Just bringing the tablet in range connects it to all the peripherals needed to turn it into a full desktop system.

This one feature could kick-start the Windows 8 tablet segment into overdrive. It's a very useful feature that could capture the imagination of consumers and businesses alike. It wouldn't be expensive to produce yet would add a lot of value to the Windows 8 tablet. It would let pure slate form devices (e.g. the ThinkPad Tablet 2) serve as great mobile tablets and turn into full desktop systems on demand. It would certainly beat the competition hands-down.

See related: ThinkPad Tablet 2: Best Windows tabletThinkPad Tablet 2: First look | ThinkPad Tablet 2: Inking in Windows 8 | ThinkPad Tablet 2: First impressions

The idea of wireless docking is nothing new. Dell first showed it off back in 2009 with the Latitude Z laptop. In addition to the wireless dock Dell also added wireless charging to the Z package. Perhaps it was too expensive or maybe shoppers didn't see enough of a need for wireless docking with a laptop as the Z never went anywhere and soon disappeared.

More recently Dell has shown off the Wireless Dock D5000 for its Latitude 6430u Ultrabook. Updated from the model years earlier, the current dock allows connecting up to two displays, gigabit ethernet, keyboard, mouse, hard drives, and other USB devices into the dock. The dock wirelessly connects to the Ultrabook when in range (about 10 feet) over the 60GHz WiGig band.

Dell is persistent in its effort to get wireless docking for laptops, but it makes more sense to do so with tablets. Turning a tablet into a desktop system with dual monitors and a full suite of peripherals would be very useful. You could do all your desktop work and then simply walk away with the tablet to go mobile. If they could throw wireless charging for the tablet into the bundle that would be icing on the cake.

I believe this would be very big in the Windows 8 tablet space and would kick-start adoption into high gear. There is nothing comparable on competing platforms and Windows could own this. Hopefully Microsoft and its partners (not just Dell) are thinking about this. If they aren't, they need new visionaries.

Topics: Mobility, Dell, Tablets, Windows 8

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  • tablet or phone?

    that´s true James, but what about doing the same with a full Windows 8 phone?
    (meaning a phone running desktop W8)
    that would be a real step forward...
    • Yeah phone would be better but either would be nice

      Forget the hard drives and add a wireless charging pad for a phone and a tilted up one for a tablet to rest in as a display or as a second display.
      Johnny Vegas
    • Convergence is the name of the game

      Yea... Canonical really seems to be on to something! I'm actually rather excited to see what they pull out of the hat.
    • Beat me to it

      Tiago47 took the words right out of my mouth.

      BTW, besides the tablet/phone "hub" issue, I like James Kendrick's general idea - and it is consistent with James' thoughts about large-scale cloud computing being the future (which I agree with). I suspect that James' ideas about cloud computing, like my own, are shaped by owing and using one of Google's chromebooks and seeing the advantages or eventual advantages of those devices for all but processor-intensive tasks.
    • Can't wait to do AutoCAD and Adobe Photoshop on my new phone

      Ballmer said it would work so that must be true.

    • Does it really matter?

      Either way it's a Microsoft product with secret NSA back doors built into so that the government can spy on everything you do.
      • Did you remember...

        to pack your tinfoil hat today?
        Ehsan Irani
        • Nope

          You've been hoarding them all
        • Are you saying you don't believe him?

          This is pretty well known and is no longer tin foil hat stuff. I guess you must think the Snowden leaks are fake too huh?
      • Not for perverts and terrorists then.

        Since I'm neither I'm not bothered about any government spying on what I do, they'd soon get bored and go elsewhere.

        I always wonder what privacy nuts are doing behind closed doors.
        • well...

          Cheating on spouses seems to cover a large number of politicians and (in)famous people... On spying I worry about two things.

          Government agencies getting "dirt" on politicians and using that as leverage to protect their budgets, programs, or misdeeds of upper echelon.

          Government agencies getting corporate technical/competitive information and using it to get one competitor to provide unsavory services to the agency under threat or promise of release of the information.

          I doubt run of the mill perverts of the adult/adult/[adult...] persuasion have anything to be concerned about with regard to government interest, I'd bet good money internal filters drop that trash in the same bucket they drop Vixgra spam in.

          I don't know that I'm all that happy about accepting my above concerns for a modest improvement with regard to catching terrorists when we routinely and casually kill many times more people here in the US just driving our cars and having bar fights. Its like using a howitzer to kill an ant hill.
        • Very short-sighted...

          Why do you think the information the government of today collects will or will not be used against people by this government today? What will be the disposition of the government 10 years from now? Do we have more freedoms today than we did 10, 20, 100 years ago or less? Are there more laws being enacted that you are more likely to break then there were in the past.

          You seem to be a person that does not really deserve the freedom earned for you by others.
          Rann Xeroxx
        • Nobody could have said it better....

          "I always wonder what privacy nuts are doing behind closed doors."

          Ya. So do plenty of people. And those people want to find out. Along with everyone else's stuff they do behind closed doors. Its beyond ALL belief how naïve the "what do I have to fear" clan is. Its a good thing for them they have others looking out for them. They sound like the immature teen who says; "what could go wrong??"
      • Please tell us..

        Which OS is above government intervention and sequestration? Ever hear of SELinux? Stop with such argument from absurd extreme. Outside that, do you delude yourself with beliefs that you are tracked less using other OS'? Check the Yes/No box, or just shut the H up.
      • And which American Tech company...

        ...is not doing what the US government tells it to do when the US government can direct the IRS to audit their employees, refuse patients, enact laws restricting their business models all covertly and simply without links back to not letting them into the backend.

        The US government really needs to get a clue and understand how the NSA crap is hurting the American tech repetition.

        Your anti-Microsoft rant is clueless.
        Rann Xeroxx
      • Not spying

        The government will not really be spying as much as it really wants to know where we are all going to be at any given moment. Spying will be useful some of the time. In the last days, yes I am a person of faith, big brother, government, or what ever you wish to call it will always know where we are at any given time and cell phones have pushed into that faster than any other object. Most people today have a phone so it is not completely reliable and many people have more than one phone.
        Add to that the functionality of what is talked about in this article, being able to instantly connect our tablet/phone with other objects such as a keyboard, monitor, etc, will make this even more of a possibility. We are rapidly rushing to a cashless society especially with NFC being available on our phones so that we don't have to use a credit card. The problem with NFC in our phones is that phones can be lost or stolen thereby making the NFC not so handy but not to fear we will have chips implanted directly into our bodies making it nearly impossible to lose or have it stolen. You may laugh and think I am crazy and that's OK but just watch and see it happen in the next few years, probably less than 10.
  • Hmmm...

    A very low performing desktop.
    • Perhaps...

      ...but probably suitable for the vast majority of both business and consumer users. This is anecdotal, but most users rarely tax the capabilities of modern computing devices for email, web browsing, light spreadsheet work and casual gaming.
      • VDI

        Why would you run this on a handheld device and not in the (in house) cloud with VDIs, RemoteApps, Citrix like apps, etc? Why pack the horsepower, even a little, into a device when a mobile thin client will do? The majority of business people would be better off with a tablet size thin client then a phone one to allow replacement of the laptop form factor.

        Its a neat idea for the geek crowd and I actually support convergence of the same OS on all platforms for development and support reasons but having a PC like computer running off a phone seems like a solution looking for a problem to solve.
        Rann Xeroxx
    • Exactly

      I use my desktop when I need horsepower for computationally difficult operations. I use it when I need high graphics performance at high resolutions. In other words, I use it to do things I simply can't do on my tablet. Plus, my tablet syncs with my desktop anyway, so why would I work on the tablet when sitting at my desk? Even if the tablet had the power and graphics capability to match a mid level desktop (which it doesn't,) there is still the limitations of wireless connections. You can't drive really high resolution displays over a wireless connection with sufficient update speeds. Trying to drive two displays would be nightmarish.