Samsung's Unpacked launch party this week for the long-awaited Galaxy S8 phone was a gadget lover's dream. From the bright screen to its waterproof body, the phone is exciting.
Although the Galaxy S8 and its larger brother/sister, the S8+, have received a lot of attention, one enterprise showpiece is a new docking station called the DeX Station , which is short for "desktop experience."
DeX is a small device with a connector that is native to the Galaxy S8 / Galaxy S8+ phones. The phone connects quickly to the DeX box, by popping into the connector on the box's top. The box has several ports on the back, including power, two USB ports, Ethernet, and HDMI.
DeX is small enough for business travelers to carry in their computer bag.
With all these ports, DeX transforms the phone into a mini-desktop computer. Sort of a modular Chromebook, if you will. With a Bluetooth mouse and keyboard, and an HDMI monitor connected to the DeX, the phone functions almost like a real computer.
The monitor mirrors the phone screen, at full 1080p resolution, with all applications living natively on the phone itself.
Historically, such arrangements were only somewhat useful, requiring cumbersome remote desktops and many compromises in functionality. Today, a fast processor, robust application support, and high monitor resolution make the DeX an attractive and viable solution.
I tried the DeX and it really does work.
The presence of full-featured apps on the phone make this solution viable. For example, Microsoft has done an excellent job porting Office to Android (which of course the Samsung phones run on), including file compatibility with the corresponding desktop products.
As a result, you can share files with co-workers using Windows or Macintosh computers without file conversions that take time and always risk screwing up fonts and other formatting.
Typical use cases include:
Finishing a presentation, spreadsheet, or document in a hotel room by plugging the phone into a TV. However, this assumes you have a Bluetooth mouse and keyboard handy, which is definitely an issue. Certainly, most hotel business centers have computers with peripherals that you could plug into the DeX. With native applications and your own mobile network, security concerns are diminished compared with using the hotel's computer.
Providing DeX as standard equipment in office pools where the company has standardized on Galaxy S8 / S8+ phones. Instead of bringing a laptop to work, the phone will suffice for most business purposes.
DeX is an important part of Samsung's push into the enterprise. I asked mobile industry analyst, Bob Egan, who is CEO and chief research officer of The Sepharim Group, to place the device and strategy into context:
Samsung's new DeX feature blurs the lines between phones and desktops. Samsung isn't the first to help users navigate their experience seamlessly between devices; Microsoft, HP, Motorola, Ubuntu, and even BlackBerry have made halfhearted attempts. But based on what Samsung demonstrated so far, they seem to be the most viable to get it right. At launch Microsoft's Office Suite, some Adobe applications are supported as are VDI schemes from Citrix and VMware.
In some work scenarios, DeX is likely to cut the end user computing TCO by up to 50 percent by allowing organizations to get rid of a PC in certain work situations. DeX also seems to be an interesting security play that CIOs may take note of. In my view, smartphones are more secure via many methods including encryption schemes and in the case of Samsung's new S8 and S8+ offer multiple avenues for biometric access.
DeX isn't perfect. While Samsung's default internet browser is supported, Google's Chrome isn't -- yet. Android apps that have been optimized for the Android Nougat will probably work great but many apps in the Google play store won't.
For the $150 price, many organizations and business users will find the DeX Station a useful and practical solution. Perhaps more important in the long-term, this new product represents Samsung's ambitions to become a major player in enterprise mobility.