Use a PDA as a Desktop Platform via Blue Dock

A new company has released initial details about a future product called Blue Dock, that allows a Palm OS handheld to function as a full computing environment with external desktop hardware.

Synosphere’s initial product, the Blue Dock, is the first PDA docking station to allow a PDA to function as a primary computing platform in a desktop environment, without the need for an additional workstation or laptop. It was first publicly introduced at the Consumer Electronics Show 2004.

Palm Blue DockAccording to the limited details available on the company's website, the Blue Dock will work with any SDIO enabled Palm Powered handheld. It is used in conjunction with any full size monitor, keyboard, mouse, ethernet network connection and supported USB devices. The dock will have a SDIO interface for additional storage and will export video at VGA (640x480) and 800x600 modes, it also includes a power supply/charging circuit.

The Blue Dock, whose name is in reference to only the color of the dock, and unfortunately does not support Bluetooth. Synosphere estimates the unit to be available by Q4 2004 for around $249 USD. The company was just recently acquired by iBiz Technology, which has a line of PDA accessories and solutions.

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Hmmm. Emulator's Free :)

DevPOV @ 1/23/2004 12:32:24 PM #
'Nuf said :)


Hal2000 @ 1/23/2004 12:41:47 PM #
Please explain to me why I might need this. Who is it aimed at? People w/o pc's?

RE: Wha?
statik @ 1/23/2004 1:00:40 PM #
Personally, I like the idea of having my PDA as my primary computer. This is a bit too limitted for my needs, but once this technology matures it may just replace the desktop PC all together.

For now, I could see this being a good solution for anybody who wants to browse the internet, do e-mail, basic word processing or spreadsheet work but doesn't want the learning curve associated with one of the desktop Operating Systems. (What do you mean I have to right click?)

Crazy 'bout a Mercury

RE: Wha?
BUDD @ 1/23/2004 1:06:25 PM #
How about someone who wants ONE solution in their life and a solid, reliable one: palm users. I personally am not in love with microsoft stuff for all sorts of reasons. I base my business on Palm OS (Dana laptop alternative, Handera stuff. Would be great to have that unit's processor be the core and engine of bigger peripherals, when I need to run and go I just pull the palm unit off the dock and take it with me.

This is a really slick idea (I've spoken of it as a dream of mine before, personally). If you think about it it would extend helpful computing into all parts of your life (make it more pervasive)--unless you also like having information stored on different computers (syncs are slow and not as efficient).

RE: Wha?
kpr @ 1/23/2004 1:08:32 PM #
I think this is a good idea for someone who:

1. does not want to spend a lot of money on a desktop or laptop computer,

2. wants an extra computer in an other part of their house, like the kitchen, TV room, garage, guest room, kids room, or even the bathroom,

3. has a spare monitor, keyboard, and mouse that they want to make use of,

4. wants to add a computer to their mini van, SUV, or motor home,

5. does not have a computer at all, like many elderly people who did not grow up with computers,

6. is tired of all the problems they run into with their PC,

7. does not want to make Bill G even more rich.

What would you rather have your parents or grandparents use:
a Palm via Blue Dock or a Microsoft Windows-based PC???

What platform do you think is easier to support and easier to use:
a Palm OS based device or a Microsoft Windows-based PC?

RE: Wha?
a3 @ 1/23/2004 1:32:05 PM #
If you tie this idea with David Nagel's info about a Palm OS based laptop we could be seeing the future PC replacement.
Anyway, the info published is very limited so there is not much to discuss, just ask questions:
- This thing needs an additional software to help out with the resolution difference (320x320 -> 800x640)
- If a PPC version becomes available what will happen with Tablet PC?

Former Tapwave's Helix fan, now a T|T3 fan.
RE: Wha?
Shotokan @ 1/23/2004 4:30:45 PM #
I could see that the sales reps that I support could really use something like this. Most of them do not have a computer, in fact they will not buy a computer unless the computer puts up the money. With the ability to surf the web, most of their interaction could be through a browser. Now if Palm OS (all devices) could support Flash, it would make life much easier than html, dhmtl, and css front end. If it would charge at the same time, it would be great.

I did like the idea of using this with a motor. Those can be cramped and anyway to save space would be great. Yes, I know several people who travel in motor homes and the only way to communicate is through email and they like a better screen size.

RE: Wha?
DWD @ 1/23/2004 4:40:18 PM #
Yep, I read it and just had one question.


RE: Wha?
Beavis @ 1/23/2004 8:02:54 PM #
Q4, 2004

I will bet that this thing never sees the light of day.

RE: Wha?
MGogesch @ 1/23/2004 9:11:31 PM #
Some of you are talking about a cost advantage over a real desktop, but i paid $250 for my zire 71, and that would cost another $250. You can get a reasonable computer for that same $500. Plus you still need the montor keyborad mouse etc...
RE: Wha?
stephen007 @ 1/23/2004 10:23:39 PM #
I have to agree with Beavis. This thing is complete vaporware.


RE: Wha?
Rome @ 1/23/2004 10:31:47 PM #
This concept is really nothing new. This was frequently discussed on Compaq's iPaq team all the way back in 1999.
RE: Wha?
acaltabiano @ 1/24/2004 12:37:44 PM #
Some things take time to mature. I hope this is one of them. I think that both sides of the argument are exactly right! Considering current tech, this really isn't all that feasible at the moment, not for what we all want to do. But, the technologies that led to this started among much different paths; PDA's were not originally designed with power, Multimedia, and the ability to replace desktops in mind. And Desktops were not designed to be mobile. This is a convergent device that might take these technologies to new places! But, as was noted further down the page, trying to do all this through the PUC is-a not-a gonna work-a. Maybe, if enough people like the IDEA of it, we will see companies try to conform to techs and standards that will make this much more of a possibility in the near future.

I like the idea of taking the brain of my computer with me, but that is not going to happen in the present. Stuff like this needs to develop and mature; but it has to start somewhere, and this device is as good as anything else trying to accomplish that at the moment. That is what this device is: a starting point for the tech.

RE: Wha?
Ezra4no1 @ 1/26/2004 3:37:52 AM #
I think this is an excellent idea... I hope this does see light of day and they build upon it and make this concept even better.

Think about this for a moment... Whether you like this concept or not, or your needs for a computing platform is beyond the scope of what current Palms can do, every thing about is a good idea.

Palm PDAs are known through out the world. They are the most widely used PDAs in the world and have the largest library of software for any PDA. I persoanlly would love to see palm grow beyond grow beyond just a handHeld PDA (not to get rid of PDAs, but to expand in other directions).

I can see this concept being used by students. I already can see how this could totally compete and replace microsoft's webtv set box. Not everyone need's a highend computer with WinXP. Many people could make do with Win 95 and maybe a 400 mhz computer.. I couldn't see why this could appeal to those users. You can surf, check your email, even use office documents to view and even edit. Best of all it's portable and you can take it with you where you are.

I think this would also help push palmOne in to new directions and create new markets and opportunities.

Nice in theory but...

hkklife @ 1/23/2004 2:31:11 PM #
As long as you can pick up a 2nd hand PII 233 w/ 64mb ram and Windows 98, the basic home user/grandma/neophyte will always lean towards a standard PC instead of something like this. I mean, Wal-Mart sells those Lindows desktops for $220 or so for a Celeron/Duron 1.xghz machine w/ 128mb. And for a bit more, you can get an E-Machines w/ XP preloaded at your local B&M retailer. Like it or not, non-power users will continue with the above options for the same reasons that people don't buy Segways or Gator/Mule type 4x4 utility wagons-you can simply buy a 2nd hand car or truck for substantially less and have much more versatility and ownership costs.

However, for schools or institutions that have deployed PDAs on a wide basis, this dock makes perfect sense. Remember the flurry of K-12 private schools two or so years ago that gave every student a IIIc to use? I wonder how that ended up working out...

RE: Nice in theory but...
JonAcheson @ 1/24/2004 12:41:50 PM #
You've got the right idea, but I quibble with your second conclusion.

For the cost of this adapter, I could just buy an entire Wal-mart pc and plug my PDA into it. And have a fricking PC. And, when I buy a new PDA in three years, the PC will hook up to that too.

For schools, this is the worst of all possible systems, because it will a) tie up classrooms with all the monitors and keyboards for these adapters b) cost almost as much as PCs c) not provide anything like the functionality of a PC and d) have a working life of three years maximum, after which the new PDAs won't work with this adapter any more.

This is dead on arrival.

Jon Acheson

"All opinions posted are my own, and not those of my employers, who are appalled."

RE: Nice in theory but...
hkklife @ 1/24/2004 5:00:35 PM #
Well, yes, I concur with your thoughts as well but I was primarily thinking of schools/institutions that had already spend (or were in the process of) spending mega-$ on large volume PDA purchases. Or say, in a hospital where the nurses/docs had PDAs and there could be a few of these "stations" on each hall where they could plug in, charge, upload/download patient info etc. Of course, PPCs and Tungsten Cs are seen so widely now in many of the larger hospitals & can do all of this with wi-fi so this thing might really be completely DOA. Now, desktop docks for laptops, I see as an entirely different animal. Those will only increase in popularity in the coming years.

RE: Nice in theory but...What?
Ezra4no1 @ 1/26/2004 4:07:39 AM #
You guys are missing the point here.. the question companies will ask.... is not where can we stick a cheap PC, but where can we eliminate having a PC all together. Just because this route may be more costly to you or I, doesn't mean a company or an education institude is going to go out and look for 25 second hand PCs running Windows 98 over the blue Dock solution.

There are very real purposes where this could be a better solution than a PC. The fact that one Blue Dock can be purchased for a company on a sales floor, while their sales associates can each be given a Palm and when needed can connect to a Blue Dock terminal when needed makes this an attractive, a secure, and cost effective solution, still allowing their employees to take their data with them in the field and or home. I can even see this being used in a medical clinical setting, (seeing how I have 2 brother inlaws both Doctors and both use their Palms for work could also work for that purpose as well).

Keep in mind.. Just because an older PC is cheaper and can still do more, it's still may not be the solution and can still add up in costly expense to support it and maintain it.

RE: Nice in theory but...
a_nonamiss @ 1/26/2004 10:32:41 AM #
Also keep in mind that the $250 price tag is the pre-release price. It will never be wildly successful at that price. But that price is for a product that is probably at least a year away from actual release. There is nothing inherent about thie device that makes it that expensive. You're talking about an extremely low-end video chip and USB or PS/2 controllers for the keyboard/mouse. Hardware-wise, this thing doesn't really command a price of $250. I would envision these being released at a slightly lower price point, and I would see them eventually coming down to somewhere around $50. At this price, all the "PC vs. Palm Docking Station" arguments fall apart. This would be a great device at $50. At $250, it will be a "look what I can do" toy. They might sell enought to stay in business, but they won't revolutionize computing.


Palm Pilot 1000 > Palm Pilot Professional > Palm III > Palm M100 > Sony Clié PEG-T415 > Palm T|T3

Another technology focussed company waiting to die

Louis Berk @ 1/23/2004 2:55:23 PM #
It never fails to amaze me how endemic is the malaise of technology driving the IT industry rather than sound marketing ideas.

Who needs this? Just how big could the market size be? By the time you add on the peripherals (screen, keyboard, mouse, storage etc) I doubt there will be any economic difference between this solution and an entry level Dell.

Yes, it sounds fine, it even looks kewl and there will be some gadget junkies who will embrace the idea with missionary zeal. But enough for this to be successful? I doubt that very much.

Sony's recently announced "soft" Palm environment makes considerably more sense - after all there are several gazillion compatible desktops out there that you could sell the software to. That's called marketing. This thing is called "mental masturbation" and I can only assume it has been developed by a bunch of well meaning, very technical but commercially unaware engineers.

I'll eat my socks if this goes anywhere so please save this post!


RE: Another technology focussed company waiting to die
BUDD @ 1/23/2004 4:32:22 PM #
You just don't get it--this is not about money. It is about having a central 'core' to your computing experience no matter where you are. The already ubiquitis hardware out there would be usable by a palm. But you are sitting at your desk looking at a big plasma screen and need to go into the field. So you take the 'brain of the system' (the palm) out of the dock and slip it into your pocket. The whole thing is a like a morphing computer experience. Could give a rats but if granny likes it or it costs nothing less (though I think it would if you had any of the hardware it could use with this--assuming you all are interacting with a keyboard and not an implant of some kind).

RE: Another technology focussed company waiting to die
jhintonh @ 1/23/2004 5:50:28 PM #
I agree with Louis. This thing was imagined in a vacuum. Something like this:
Techie A: Man it would be so cool to have like a cradle that I could plug other stuff in to and control my Palm.
Techie B: No doubt!
Techie A: Can it be done?
Techie B: Certainly.
Techie A: Let's do it then. My mom will convince my dad to put up the start up coin for it!
Techie B: Sweet! We rock!
Meanwhile in Gotham City, six people are eagerly awaiting just such a device and they do not even realize it yet.
And BTW, "mental masturbation" is by far, going away, hands down, the BEST blurb I have ever read on PalmInfoCenter forums. Very nice. Very Michael Savage-esque (not sure if you know who that is, but I meant it as a compliment).
-Jhintonh (the "J" is for Juggernaut...Jabberwocke...Justice...)
RE: Another technology focussed company waiting to die
Louis Berk @ 1/24/2004 6:16:05 AM #
>You just don't get it--this is not about money.

Budd, talk about "laugh out loud"!

Unless I did my economics degree at the wrong university, I beg to differ. It is all about money. My point is that most technology companies, and this one in particular share your view.

And for that reason they are doomed to die.

Sorry to be a hardbitten, hardnosed businesman but believe me in the real world, the only thing that matters is money and too few consumers will be able to justify the premium over the cost of a basic computer for this type of solution to sustain the company.



Ahead of its time?

Verteron @ 1/23/2004 3:26:10 PM #
I think that in a few years, PDAs will be able to support USB peripherals the same way desktops can (i.e. mouse, keyboard). They already have audio-out. Adding a DVI or VGA connector wouldn't be a huge leap, it's already possible with current technology. I'm sure you can already do this kind of thing with a Sharp Zaurus.

Handspring Visor Neo --> Sony CLIE PEG-T665C --> palmOne Tungsten T2
RE: Ahead of its time?
BUDD @ 1/23/2004 4:30:25 PM #
Few years nothing. You may be aware that the AlphaSmart DANA already has 2 USB ports that work with drivers for modems and printers--and anything else anyone wanted to write a driver for. And that's with OS 4.1

RE: Ahead of its time?
Verteron @ 1/23/2004 4:43:26 PM #
I didn't know about the AlphaSmart's USB ports, but it's not enough. Imagine if you could plug a USB Hard Disk Drive, a printer, a scanner or a CD-Burner into those ports. It would certainly make the device more useful.

Handspring Visor Neo --> Sony CLIE PEG-T665C --> palmOne Tungsten T2


bsquare @ 1/23/2004 3:31:38 PM #

Now, do I need to remove the buttons from my Palm in order to use this? Seriously, why would they use an empty Palm Shell with the buttons obviously gone in the promo pic?? I'm really surpised they didn't have this M505 running WinCE complete with Start Bar.

RE: Buttons?
Strider_mt2k @ 1/23/2004 5:50:17 PM #
What they appear to have done is taken an m500 and superimposed a color screen onto it, while at the same time removing the markings.

Hmmm, A 33Mhz desktop. Very inspiring.

Couldn't they have at least borrowed a newer model to put a fake screen on?

Plus, don't a growing number of the newer PalmOne handhelds devoid of the UC?

RE: Buttons?
helf @ 1/23/2004 6:08:16 PM #
Nothing wrong with 33mhz.. You can do a ton of stuff on the old neXt systems and amigas and they are around 33mhz...

RE: Buttons?
bsquare @ 1/23/2004 9:28:59 PM #
33Mhz NeXT?? Wow, you must have a Turbo Cube. My lowly old cube only runs at 25Mhz.

RE: Buttons?
Strider_mt2k @ 1/24/2004 8:02:29 AM #
NeXT, Amiga?

Ten years ago called, they want their computers back.

RE: Buttons?
jss1432 @ 1/26/2004 2:31:59 AM #
But NeXT and Amiga had real operating systems and real window systems. The problem with Palm for these kinds of applications is not the hardware, it's the software. Palm just isn't up to it.

A neat trick

cbowers @ 1/23/2004 3:22:41 PM #
I first saw this product announced in conjunction with a PocketPC device. There I can see it fly. But not on an OS5 or pre-os5 (as shown) device.

"the Blue Dock will work with any SDIO enabled Palm Powered handheld. It is used in conjunction with any full size monitor, keyboard, mouse, ethernet network connection and supported USB devices. The dock will have a SDIO interface for additional storage and will export video at VGA (640x480) and 800x600 modes"

Given that the SDIO slot is for extra storage (though as pictured that doesn't seem to have been taken into account), that leaves the universal connector for all of the rest of the functionality.

Video (ala iGo Pitch Mirror app sort of a thing I guess), network, and keyboard, seems a bit of a stretch on such a narrow bandwidth port. As for USB, at least they say "supported USB" devices. Except for the Alphasmart Dana, this is exactly "0". We don't have USB Master functionality on PalmOS devices apart from the Dana.

Nice idea, and doable on PocketPC, but unless they're targeting OS6 devices, I can't see it flying here.

That said, I already do this as much as it's possible, with a Tungsten C on a PPC, with Margi Mirror outputting to a monitor (though the Mirror part is rare unless I'm demoing something).

I wish it was a more doable concept on our platform, I just can't see much likelyhood of success yet (perhaps in an OS6 world).

As it stands it's in the same category as all those SD accessory moch-ups on Palm's conference boards.

Looks like vaporware to me!

dacreativeguy @ 1/23/2004 4:18:27 PM #
Has anyone seen this product in person?

The photo posted above really looks like a 3D rendering, and the photos on their web site look like a mockup. For example, check out the photo of the rear of the unit. Looks like some of the models I made in design school where I incorporated real i/o ports into a wood and plastic model. The fit and finish just doesn't look like a molded plastic unit.

I also noticed how the unit is created to exactly fit the shape of the PDA it is attached to (m505 and ipaq in their examples). Are you telling me that they are going to make a specific model for EVERY PDA out there? I can't imagine a small company (or any large one either) doing this. On the customer side, that means that when I upgrade from a m505 to a Tungsten, I won't be able to use the same unit for my new handheld.

And from a marketing point of view, wouldn't it be a lot easier to sell these things to companies if one unit could accommodate any PDA out there? I could easily imagine a company drop-in center having a few of these 'docking-stations' which traveling employees could hook up to with any PDA. That won't happen if the thing isn't universal.

I agree with the poster above. This is a product without a market.

DELL Dimension 2400 = $399

Gekko @ 1/23/2004 8:52:49 PM #
DELL Dimension 2400
Intel® Celeron® Processor at 2.4GHz with 400MHz front side bus
Microsoft® Windows® XP Home Edition
17 in Monitor
FREE Shipping!
FREE CD-Burner Upgrade - ONLINE ONLY!
$399 After Rebate

RE: DELL Dimension 2400 = $399
Rome @ 1/23/2004 10:40:16 PM #
You are missing the point. The same computer that you described in notebook form will easily cost twice as much. Size does matter in this case:))

RE: DELL Dimension 2400 = $399
Gekko @ 1/23/2004 10:54:22 PM #
DELL Inspiron 1100 Notebook = $699

$250 Palm + $250 Blue Dock + $250 Monitor = $750+ and limited functionality.

Can you hear me NOW?

RE: DELL Dimension 2400 = $399
Hal2000 @ 1/23/2004 11:22:13 PM #
Dell Wins.

RE: DELL Dimension 2400 = $399
Gekko @ 1/24/2004 1:07:28 AM #
Wow...I just realized something...PCs have become as cheap/cheaper than PDAs...

DELL 2.4GHz PC = $399

Palm T3 PDA = $399

We've crossed some kind of inflection point!

RE: DELL Dimension 2400 = $399
palm0045 @ 1/24/2004 1:27:05 AM #
don't forget, though, that with the dell dimension 2400, you need to purchase a mousepad: $399 + $6 = $405.

the tungsten wins!

Palm Vx --> Palm m500 --> Sony Clie T-615 --> Sony Clie NR70V

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