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Motorola confirms death of Webtop, laptop accessories

The company says adoption wasn't strong enough to justify additional resources.

Roger Cheng Former Executive Editor / Head of News
Roger Cheng (he/him/his) was the executive editor in charge of CNET News, managing everything from daily breaking news to in-depth investigative packages. Prior to this, he was on the telecommunications beat and wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal for nearly a decade and got his start writing and laying out pages at a local paper in Southern California. He's a devoted Trojan alum and thinks sleep is the perfect -- if unattainable -- hobby for a parent.
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  • SABEW Best in Business 2011 Award for Breaking News Coverage, Eddie Award in 2020 for 5G coverage, runner-up National Arts & Entertainment Journalism Award for culture analysis.
Roger Cheng
3 min read
Motorola is saying farewell to the laptop dock concept. Jason Hiner/CNET

Motorola Mobility's Webtop concept, which enabled its phones to act as the brains of a laptop or television entertainment hub, has quietly been killed off, the company confirmed to CNET today.

Webtop was software that allowed a Motorola smartphone, such as the Atrix 4G for AT&T, to be docked into a special laptop accessory and run with some computer functionality such as the browser. When it was unveiled, many had called it the future of mobile computing.

Unfortunately, the execution wasn't so smooth and sales were disappointing. Motorola, a unit of Google, said today that adoption wasn't strong enough to justify devoting more resources to the project. Webtop will no longer appear on phones, starting with the Photon Q, Droid Razr M, Droid Razr HD, and Droid Razr Maxx HD.

In addition, Motorola said that Webtop would increasingly be redundant as the Android operating system began to include more desktoplike features.

Phonenews.com had last month reported that Motorola was killing off Webtop at Google's behest, citing unnamed sources.

The laptop dock was a key standout feature when Motorola unveiled its flagship Atrix 4G smartphone at the Consumer Electronics Show in 2011. It helped the company differentiate its products from the sea of other Android phones that debuted at the show.

The idea was a critical hit, and some, including CNET's Jason Hiner, believed it was a potential weapon Android could use to bridge the gap between the PC and mobile worlds.

When it was about to launch, Motorola and AT&T executives talked about the potential the device had to run in the office, and replace the need for a laptop for road warriors.

But its initial momentum was halted when AT&T and Motorola priced the phone and laptop dock for $500, an eyebrow-raising price tag that had many pausing and reconsidering the potential of such a device. While later devices continued to run with Webtop and their own laptop dock accessory, the excitement had largely disappeared.

In addition, the early version was slow and didn't offer the greatest experience, though Motorola would later improve the software. Prior to the takeover, Webtop was one of former CEO Sanjay Jha's favorite projects to talk about.

Motorola, now under CEO Dennis Woodside, instead will focus on a few core principles, including better battery life, a focus on LTE, and ensuring the latest updates to Android with its newer smartphones. The company has been aggressively cutting costs, and Webtop is just the latest casualty.

Full statement below:

Motorola's Webtop app helps users extend their smartphone experience to larger screens. While consumers around the world have adopted Webtop and the concept spurred a lot of innovation in the industry, the adoption has not been strong enough to justify continued resources being allocated to developing Webtop on future devices. We have also seen development of the Android operating system focus on the inclusion of more desktoplike features. Beginning with Photon Q and Droid Razr M/Droid Razr HD/Droid Razr Maxx HD, we will no longer be including Webtop on our products moving forward.