Motorola Webtop 3.0 to turn Android phones into Android laptops?

Motorola’s Webtop platform lets you connect supported smartphones into a docking station that looks like a laptop. This lets you use your phone with a keyboard and a large display.

But since Motorola introduce the platform in 2011, the Webtop software has had a split personality. When holding the phone in your hands, it runs Google Android. But when you connect it to a laptop dock a custom version of Linux fires up with access to the Firefox web browser and your address book and phone dialer… and not much else.

Motorola Webtop 3.0 beta

Now it looks like Motorola may be scrapping the idea of installing two separate operating systems on its phones. Instead, the next version of the Webtop software may just look like Android 4.0, allowing you to run the Android web browser and other Android apps on a laptop-sized screen.

YouTube user revowii has posted a video showing a leaked beta of Motorola Webtop 3.0. When he connects the phone to the laptop dock an Android 4.0 desktop appears. You can see the Android home screen, settings menu, and web browser as well as a list of all the apps installed on the phone including Kindle, Google+, and the Google Chrome beta web browser.

Not all of these apps play well with the Webtop 3.0 user interface, since they may not be designed for the larger screen. But at least it looks like you don’t have to flip between different user experiences.

A year ago it probably made sense to use different software in laptop and phone modes, since Google offered separate versions of Android for phones and for devices with larger screens such as tablets. But now that Android 4.0 supports all sorts of shapes and sizes, there’s no need for Motorola’s custom solution.

There’s no word on when Motorola will officially release the new software.

via Droid Life

  • tk76

    I use a lapdock, and this change is unwelcome.  The prior linux based OS was limited, but it allowed for some functionality through Firefox that was not easily available on Android.  For example, I could watch Hulu and through proxies access sites like BBC iPlayer that you cannot normally get in the US.  Also, developers offered webtop variations with full linux (which I guess you can do through android as well.)

    The main issue is that the Lapdock lacks a touch-screen… and android does not work well without a touchscreen.  So why make lapdock users use an OS that does not fit with the hardware?  I’m sure any future lapdock will have a touchscreen, but they don’t right now- so why make the already limited device even less usable by removing Linux/Firefox?

    • CyberGusa

       Well, the point of the Webtop is to provide a more desktop like interface when needed and mind it’s a custom UI.  Note, for example, from the demo video for example that there’s a cursor, which means it’s set up for touchpad/mouse use and not just touch screen.

      So we’ll have to wait for some detailed reviews to see whether they did a good enough job or not…

      Mind this setup is both more energy efficient for better run times and runs more smoothly but even if they don’t provide as good a web browser there’s hope they can get it right in the not too distance future as one of the other developments going on now is that they’re re-merging the Android Kernel with Linux Kernel 3.3 soon.  Along with Chrome for Android as a viable alternative to Firefox.

      So starting probably with the next Android release we may see Google develop something that’s more a hybrid between Android and Linux for a more true cross platform capability and experience.

      Though what that may mean for legacy apps may force them to take it slow to handle the transition and give developers time to adapt.

      • https://sites.google.com/site/barry99705/ barry99705

        Stock android has a cursor, if you tether a bluetooth mouse.  If you look closely at this pic, you can see the cursor on my Streak in the second tweet down.

        https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/–oMYuEmvKns/TUIROtiODNI/AAAAAAAABJY/_UrQoL3xiTY/s1152/IMG_3151.JPG

      • CyberGusa

         That’s not what I meant, the point of contention tk76 is worried about is that Android is not optimized to use a keyboard and mouse as well as a desktop OS does and what you have doesn’t address that issue.

        Thing is a Webtop is a custom device UI for Android, which basically means it’s a web desktop set to provide a desktop environment embedded in a web browser or similar client application.

        The previous versions of the Motorola Webtop just used a custom linux image file that was run in VM and allowed basically for the running of the desktop version of Firefox.

        This allowed for many of the benefits that are normally only provided by a desktop browser, especially when using a laptop like interface with no touch screen.

        Problem though was that solution produced too much of a performance hit and used noticeably more power than running native Android apps.

        So they opted to try creating a custom optimized UI that could run natively off Android.

        This is akin to how Google optimized Honeycomb for Tablets.  Sure, you could have used older version of Android on a tablet but none before Honeycomb were optimized for Tablets. 

        In essence they’re trying to do their own combo UI like MS is trying to do with Windows 8 and switch back and forth between two differently optimized interfaces.

        The main difference here being the device switches back and forth between normal Android UI on the phone and the Webtop when docked.

        The only question is whether they managed to get the custom UI to be more usable than traditional Android for a device interface that lacks a touch screen.

        While my other point was that Google is basically headed this way as they continue to develop and expand Android from a mobile OS into something that can better serve a wider range of users.

  • sola

    I don’t see much point in this.

    A full Ubuntu would make sense, since that makes you capable of proper, full-desktop Linux applications. This new Webtop version cannot do that.

    Even earlier Webtops were better than this, since they at least provided a full Firefox.

    They should simply put Ubuntu for Android on their devices and forget about this Webtop creature.