I know, I know, I’m supposed to be writing about e-commerce. But contrary to what you may have heard, I’m secretly one of those nerdy “gadget guys”. Ok, maybe it’s not such a big secret, but I’m definitely not what you would call a “bandwagon jumper” who rushes out to participate in every new fad like those people who camped out in line to get the first iPhone. Sure, it’s hundreds of times more powerful than the computer that runs the Hubble. I get it. But in the end, all that computing power still couldn’t make up for the tiny screen.
Then along came the Motorola Atrix.
You see, in 2010 I made the decision to ditch the “traditional desktop” running Outlook and the rest of the Microsoft Office suite, and moved the entire company to Google Apps for business. This put our company mail into GMail, Google Docs replaced MS Office, and web-based collaboration replaced Microsoft Project. Everything we did was done with a web browser, and after some initial resistance from my employees, they eventually got onboard and realized the benefits of this forward-thinking move. It was time to let the old way of doing things expire.
When I saw Clayton Morris demo the Motorola Atrix, I immediately thought it could be the next step in my personal quest to free myself of localized software. I had been a Blackberry user as long as I can remember, and with no Android experience other than the tablet we keep at the office for testing site compatibility this was going to be a learning curve for sure. But I wanted to see if it could be done… if I could ditch my Windows-based notebook, which goes with me everywhere and use only the Atrix with the dock in its place.
My Computing Needs.
As I mentioned already, most of my day to day “stuff that has to be done” happens through a browser anyway. Firefox was already my browser of choice. The only thing that I figured I might have trouble with was that I do use SQL Management Studio a lot, and occasionally a graphics program for resizing images etc. I searched Android Market and found a number of RDP clients to choose from, so I figured in a worst-case scenario I can always remote desktop into one of the Windows 2003 or 2008 servers and run SQL Management Studio from there. I recognize that some may consider this “cheating”, but for me this is about breaking the need for local software and to see if the Atrix + dock can truly replace the personal computer. As for the graphics program, I haven’t yet figured that one out yet but with so many web-based photo manipulation tools out there I’m sure there is something that will work. And if not, I’ll write one myself – yeah, I’m still that nerd. I can do stuff like that.
Taking the Plunge.
I was a Verizon customer so I had to pony up more than $200 just to break the contract and switch to AT&T, plus about $540 (after $100 rebate) for the phone and the lapdock. My first Android experience went surprisingly well – since I do everything in Google Apps, within a few minutes all of my mail, contacts, and calendar settings – including employees shared calendars – were all visible in the phone. A few minutes later I added in my LinkedIn and Twitter accounts. In an hour, I wondered why I had kept my Blackberry so long in the first place… and I hadn’t even touched the Lapdock yet.
A little trouble at first.
I plugged in the phone and started using the dock, updating Firefox bookmarks. It worked as expected, but after a while I noticed the spacebar wasn’t responding to every tap. A quick check on the Motorola forum showed me to be the only person having this issue, so I took it back to AT&T and swapped it for another one and no more issues.
Getting Used to the Interface.
Keep in mind that this is also my first real Android experience anyway, so I’m really learning two systems – the “firefox is all I have” lapdock interface, and Android itself. The phone itself is fast, but it seems to slow down a little when docked. Firefox was a little more sluggish than what I’m used to on the PC, but it seemed like there were a lot of programs running on the phone that didn’t need to be, so I’ll do some more research on that in the next few days. When docked, there are actually two web browsers available – Firefox and the “app browser” which looks the same as the one on the tablet we were playing with. This actually worked out to be pretty convenient, because I can use that one to leave my personal GMail account logged in on instead of switching between the two in Firefox. All of the websites I visit regularly have worked fine so far.
First Obstacle Encountered.
Within the first couple of hours, something came up and I needed to jump into one of the Windows servers through Terminal Services. I downloaded “Remote RDP Lite” – it’s not perfect by any means, and was obviously built for phones and not the lapdock, but it did the job. Hopefully in the near future we’ll see some RDP clients that can take advantage of the laptop-sized screen instead of just stretching out the phone.
Anyway… so far so good, but it’s still the weekend. The real test will be on Monday when I’m back in the office, but I’m looking forward to the challenge. This won’t be the last you’ll hear on this subject, so follow me on Twitter to stay in the loop and share this article with your friends!