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Using Your Android Smartphone As A Desktop Computer

February 11th, 2012 Leave a comment Go to comments

I’ve already written some posts with videos showing the many things you could do with your smartphone thanks to MHL Technology.

Christian Qantrell (YouTube User) uploaded a video on YouTube where he connected his smartphone to a monitor with a MHL cable showing how it could be used as a desktop computer.

I really like his setup with a Samsung Galaxy Nexus (Android 4.0) smartphone  connected to a monitor with an MHL adapter (Micro-USB to HDMI) and Apple Bluetooth keyboard and (Magic) trackpad. He also mentioned external power, but this should not be needed if his monitor supported MHL. The Apple trackpad makes it very neat as it tracks the finger movements as it would if you used the smartphone touchscreen.

He showed web browsing and music playback and said gmail works great. Thanks to the multi-touch trackpad, pinch and zoom also works.  Overall, the user experience feels pretty good. If you are interested in the Apple Magic Trackpad, it is available on Amazon.

I see two main issues of using your smartphone as a desktop computer:

  • Storage – There is no storage like hard drives in smartphones, you would have to store your files in the cloud.
  • Android is not a Desktop OS - Android is mostly optimized for small screens, and even though Android 4.0 also have large screen support for tablet, this is not really optimal. More important, many people may need to use Microsoft Office (or other software only available on Windows or MAC).

The storage issue could be resolved right now. Simply use a cloud-service to store your files or alternatively if you are worried about privacy or need to access your files when Internet is down, you can use some kind of NAS.

For the operating system issue, there are several solutions:

  1. Use the smartphone as a thin client using virtualization software such as VMWare View (PCoIP technology) which allows to run any OS on your device. Of course, you’d need a virtualization server which may not be an ideal solution for everybody. But for enterprise users, this could be very useful.
  2. Multi OS with a baremetal hypervisor – A baremetal hypervisor is a low footprint hypervisor that runs directly on the machine hardware. This allows to run multiple operating systems simultaneously with very low performance degradation (~10% overhead).  Codezero Embedded Hypervisor is a solution that works on ARM (OMAP 4) and can currently run Linux (Ubuntu) and Android simultaneously. The drawback of this solution is that it requires a more powerful smartphone, especially concerning system memory requirements.
  3. Windows 8 – If you have a mobile device running Windows 8 with the Office suite (Office 15) then all the issues related to the OS simply go away. If “the smartphone is your laptop” trend really kicks off, this could really be a tremendous opportunity for Microsoft to gain market share in the mobile market.
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