Sales of PCs continue to decline, and that’s forcing PC makers to get creative. The latest example is an attempt by Acer, currently the number four maker of PCs in the world by market share, to replace the PC forever—with the smartphone.
Acer Extend prototype, which was unveiled this week at Germany’s annual gadget show, the IFA in Berlin. It’s basically a lobotomized laptop computer, just a keyboard and a screen. Plug it into Acer’s specially-modified Android phone, however, and it becomes, in essence, a laptop-shaped version of your phone—with all the same apps, media, and wireless connectivity.
If it feels like you’ve seen this idea before, it’s because you have—and every time, it’s failed. In 2007 Palm announced the Foleo, a companion to its Treo smartphones, and then canceled it three months later. In 2008 Celio Corp unveiled REDFLY, which was designed to make it easy to edit Microsoft Office documents stored on Windows Mobile smartphones, but reviewers hated it. In 2011 Motorola unveiled the Atrix, which did the same thing as the Foleo and REDFLY, only this one ran Android. It was mothballed in 2012. Then, in July 2013, entrepreneur Mark Shuttleworth unveiled a plan to crowd-fund a new phone, called the Ubuntu Edge, that would be every bit as powerful as a laptop PC. He failed to raise the $32 million that his project would have required.