Do you remember the Motorola Atrix phone and LapDock accessory? Don’t worry if not; few people will. The forgettable 2011 device used the Atrix handset to power a Linux environment on a dumb mobile terminal. You’d simply insert the phone into the LapDock — essentially a shell with display and keyboard — and the computer ran from the phone’s internal hardware.
After Google bought Motorola, I suggested a revised model with an Android phone that could run Google’s Chrome OS on the laptop accessory. That never happened, but it still might. Google has earned a patent for a phone that can be inserted into a laptop for voice and data services called “Notebook computer and cell phone assembly.”
The patent, reported by Android Police on Monday and originally spotted by Patent Bolt, only covers how the phone and laptop manage both power and cellular service. There’s no indication of what platforms would be supported in an implementation of the patent. And let’s be honest: A patent grant doesn’t even guarantee an implementation at all.
But it’s not a stretch to see Android and Chrome OS working together here. What other software does Google actually have to use on a phone or a laptop? Android is clearly Google’s mobile platform while Chrome OS is looking to take over desktops and laptops everywhere. So it’s a natural fit of sorts.
While Chromebooks do have apps that work offline, Chrome OS is at its best when it has a dedicated web connection. The inserted phone in Chromebook with a handset port could supply that connection. Or, taking things a step further as I did last year, the phone could even run the full Chrome OS software — both Android and Chrome OS are Linux-based — from a dedicated storage area on the handset. Clearly, the chips that power Android phones today are capable of running Chrome OS: Both the Samsung Chromebook and the HP Chromebook 11 already do so.
It could just be that Google is looking to get mobile broadband connectivity in a Chromebook with this patent. But my hope is that we see another attempt at the LapDock: It was a great concept that fell short in the implementation.