Motorola's Atrix: Potential thin client for corporations with Citrix assist

Motorola's Atrix is promising on many levels, but there's still a mental hurdle involved with any potential thin client. However, the Atrix and its successors could be a promising corporate computing alternative.

Motorola's Atrix is promising on many levels, but there's still a mental hurdle involved with any potential thin client. However, the Atrix and its successors could be a promising corporate computing alternative.

Like Jason Hiner, who reviewed the Motorola Atrix for TechRepublic, I've had the Atrix smartphone and laptop dock for a few weeks. Some analysts have knocked the Atrix because of what they perceive as weak sales based on "channel checks." Simply put, Atrix may not be a consumer play. There just aren't many folks that will pay up for the smartphone and laptop dock.

Atrix has the parts to become a corporate computing choice even if it doesn't find consumer nirvana. The Atrix is interesting and surprisingly well done for a first effort. My tests revolved around using the Atrix as a laptop when commuting and taking the integrated Citrix client for a spin. In the corporate world, the Atrix will be used for travel and tunneling into enterprise apps.

My overall conclusion is that Atrix will have its corporate applications. If you assume prices fall in the future---Atrix accessories are pricey---it's reasonable to assume that some folks will have these phone/laptop contraptions instead of a laptop. Add it up and you can see how laptops are going to be challenged in the workplace. To wit:

  • Tablets are going to be fine for certain workers, who don't need to create content that much.
  • Mobile workers who prefer laptops will find the appeal of a dock and phone appealing.
  • Integration with tools from the likes of Citrix will provide a tunnel to corporate devices whether it's the Atrix or a tablet.

On the train, the Atrix in its laptop dock worked fine. The only hurdle I had is that my review unit wasn't equipped for AT&T 3G connectivity in Webtop mode. As a result, I used my Verizon hotspot to provide a connection. It's quite possible I would have had to do that arrangement anyway as my train ran through the Northeast Corridor.

You could quibble about the finish of the laptop dock, but for the most part the Atrix was functional. In fact, you forget there's a phone there in the back.

The Webtop's biggest corporate feature is its Citrix integration. Hiner's review mentioned that the Webtop felt like a beta. In some respects, the Webtop is a beta. However, there's a way around that. The Citrix Receiver native application can turn the Atrix into a Windows 7 desktop.

Once you flip Citrix on the beta aspect of the Linux Webtop is forgotten. Overall, though I live through a browser most of the time so didn't notice a lot of the Webtop quirks.

The key points on Citrix and Atrix:

  • Citrix Receiver for Linux is preinstalled on the Webtop. You have to download Receiver for Android to get Receiver on the phone.
  • The Firefox browser got me to a Citrix address.
  • You get a choice of apps like Microsoft Office---Word and PowerPoint ran fine.
  • You get two desktop tabs---a Windows 7 Professional VDI managed by Citrix XenDesktop and a Windows Server 2008 R2 that's configured to look like Windows 7 to users.
  • In short order, the Atrix can be a Windows 7 laptop. Surprisingly, I didn't notice much of a processor deficiency. In other words, smartphones are to the point where they can be functional CPUs. I wasn't crunching the human genome or anything, but then again neither will your average enterprise worker.

Will thin be in?

Perhaps my biggest hurdle with the Atrix and laptop dock is that it is a thin client. I know "good enough" computing is the rage. IDC recently noted that PC sales contracted in the first quarter and said:

‘Good-enough computing’ has become a firm reality, exemplified first by Mini Notebooks and now Media Tablets. Macroeconomic forces can explain some of the ebb and flow of the PC business, but the real question PC vendors have to think hard about is how to enable a compelling user experience that can justify spending on the added horsepower.

I'm still in that camp that wants the horsepower. All I want is a 2 pound laptop, more than 10 hours of battery life, an Intel i7 chip and 6GB of memory. That's why you're more likely to find me with a device like the Lenovo X201 over something more fashionable.

The larger question here is whether the Atrix will have enough of a cool factor to shed any hang-ups users will have about a thin client. My hunch is that users will find the Atrix appealing on levels.

Bottom line: The Atrix is a fine first effort and Motorola's move to partner with corporate players like Citrix can make it an option for those IT managers in search of some thin client mojo. As smarpthone processors ramp up performance, these phone-dock mergers won't really be thin clients too much longer.