The Motorola phone that becomes a laptop

January 5, 2011: 10:28 PM ET

Coolest thing so far at CES, and it isn't a tablet: the Motorola Atrix, a souped-up 4G smart phone that doubles as the engine for a notebook/netbook running Android. But ask the Motorola Mobility gang (they spun off from Motorola and went public on Tuesday) if they are now building laptops and they get coy. "We are blurring the lines," says Alain Mutricy, SVP for mobile devices, "but we are not in the PC business, we are in the computing business. We believe this is the way computing is headed."

SOURCE: Motorola Mobility

If that is true, things look pretty good. But please…building a "laptop dock" and not calling it a laptop is splitting hairs. Whatever you want to call it, you are going to want one when you see it. The phone end of things is a sleek, carbon-fiber-looking handset, with Nvidia's dual-core, super-fast Tegra 2 processor under the hood. Combine that with 1GB of notebook-grade RAM, 16GB of built-in memory and what you have is truly a pocket-size computer. Slap it into a standalone dock connected to a screen, or slip it into the laptop dock, and the phone is the engine for an Android notebook. Since your phone retains all your apps and potentially virtualized applications via Citrix in the cloud you can go from dock to dock bringing what Motorola calls your "webtop" with you. The laptop dock, for example, is essentially a screen, battery and a little intelligence. All the processing, all the storage, all the important stuff stays on your phone.  That allows the laptop dock to be very thin, light, and light on battery consumption. Hopefully, it allows it to be relatively inexpensive too.

The Atrix is launching with AT&T sometime this quarter. AT&T will set pricing and that has not yet been revealed. All anyone will say is it will be "competitive." But with what? A smart phone? Or a laptop? Hopefully all-in, with the accessories that make this phone/computer so cool, it won't be in the laptop strata. After all, it's blurring the lines, so ideally the price will too.

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Michael Copeland
Michael Copeland

Michael V. Copeland joined FORTUNE as a senior writer in September 2007. Copeland has covered everything from electric cars to e-readers. He is a creator of Tech Mate, an irreverent video series in which he debates (and skewers) digital issues of the day. Before joining FORTUNE, Copeland was a senior writer at Business 2.0. Copeland graduated from the University of Pennsylvania.

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