Author(s): Raghu Gopal
Last week, NexDock's Indiegogo project reached its funding goal of $300,000. For anyone looking to repurpose their mobile device into a near full-functioning computer, the $119 (pre-order price) NexDock could be a solution.
NexDock is a portable display and keyboard that functions as a laptop, with a smartphone, tablet or PC stick as its brain. CPU power and app storage are provided by the mobile device, whether it be an Android, iOS, Windows Phone device, or a tiny portable computer such as a Raspberry Pi.
Current high-end smartphones and tablets are capable of performing most of the functions of personal computers. However, NexDock is looking to solve one of the main limitations of a smartphone: its size. Smartphones and phablets are particularly convenient when on the go, but when it comes to dealing with larger content and complicated input, even the most powerful flagship smartphones need accessories to enhance their capabilities.
NexDock attempts to bridge this weakness with features including an external 14-inch display with HDMI input, a laptop-sized keyboard and touchpad, powered by its own 10,000 mAh battery pack. The dock comes with two USB ports, a card reader, built-in dual speakers and a headphone jack. The company promises that users will be able to connect their devices using a wireless adapter or a supplied USB-C-to-HDMI cable.
NexDock is not without competition. Microsoft's Display Dock, for example, shares a similar vision of phones evolving to become the centre of a computing landscape, reflecting our prediction in 2013 that phones would start to double as computers. Microsoft's product uses a USB-C connector to project the phone's display to a monitor, stretching apps like Mail or Word into full-screen replicas of a desktop experience using its Continuum feature. Smartphones that currently support Continuum technology include the Lumia 950 and the Lumia 950 X. HP offers its Elite x3 Windows phone with a laptop-like Mobile Extender similar to the NexDock.
The concept of using powerful smartphones or tablets as the brain of a PC has been a long-term goal of device manufacturers. NexDock is not unprecedented and it's not a finished product yet, but its low price and its success on Indiegogo is a reminder that people are looking for ways to give devices like smartphones and tablets a bigger role.
At the same time, the PC market is seeing more innovation than it has for a long time, with new laptop and two-in-one designs, as well as PCs in a variety of shapes and sizes, such as sticks and Intel's NUC. NexDock is entering an increasingly crowded landscape.