Hardware manufacturers HP and Huawei used this year's Mobile World Congress to expand beyond their stock template and into new territory. HP is taking risks with a new phone PC while Huawei seems to be following a standard evolution path for its latest gear, with uniqueness to both company's new offerings.
Fresh off a split with its enterprise side, the new (Newer? Newest?) HP showed off the Elite X3 phone running full blown Windows 10. Aimed square at the enterprise market, the Elite X3 has a huge battery, a 5.9 inch display, 4GB of RAM, 64GB of storage, a MicroSD slot for more storage, and a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor, plus a front facing 8 MP camera and a 16MP one on the back, putting it on par with many of the other new-and-improved smartphones rolled out a few weeks ago. For audiophiles, there's a little sugar on top with a pair of Bang & Olufsen speakers. I like the fact it has been ruggedized against dust, water (1 meter deep for 30 minutes) and can take a four foot drop onto a hard surface.
The Elite X3 is designed to move between pocket and desktop without breaking a sweat by leveraging Microsoft's Continuum software technology. You can run Windows 10 apps on it then drop it into a docking station on the desktop to get a full desktop screen and keyboard experience and productivity.
HP has both a laptop "dock" – the HP Mobile Extender – and a desktop dock to add larger screens and keyboards. The 2.2 poundish HP Mobile Extender connects to the Elite X3 through either wireless or USB-C cable as a glorified terminal. You get a 12.5 inch screen and thin keyboard, a pair of USB-C ports, some larger Bang & Olufsen speakers, audio-out jack, and a battery that can add about 20 percent more runtime to the basic phone. There's no onboard storage or SD slots or other ports, so the Mobile Extender is about barebones as you can get.
The Desk Dock is the device Elite X3 drops in to prove a desktop experience, adding a couple of USB 3.0 ports, an RJ-45 Ethernet port, and a DisplayPort for a larger monitor. A bonus on the dock is incorporation of Qualcomm's Quick Charge 3.0 technology to speed up phone charging.
Windows 10 Continuum figures out what type of environment the phone is plugged into and adjusts the display and user interfaces to take advantage to whatever is available. If you don't need heavy-duty desktop compute power, the Elite X3 provides you with enough horses to handle the productivity basics of spreadsheet, word processor and presentation. Don't expect to do CPA accountant level Excel or video editing.
Shipping later this year, HP hasn't talked about how much you'll have to shell out for the phone and its docks and if it will offer a 3 piece bundle including phone, Extender and Dock. It's targeted to enterprise users, but will it be priced for the executive suite or for any knowledge worker?
Huawei made a more conservative approach. MateBook is the company's first 2-in-1 Windows 10 device in the same ballpark as the Surface Pro family -a 12 inch, tablet first design with PC-grade horsepower and the addition of a real keyboard cover and stylus. The accompanying MatePen generated buzz by including a built-in laser pointer into the 2048 level sensing stylus.
Huawei has been making tablets for a while, but this is a full blown Windows 10 device with the Intel horsepower to do more serious work. MateBook versions start with an Intel Core M processor (M3, M5, or M7) and come with 4GB to 8GB of RAM and anywhere from 128GB to 512GB of storage. It's as thin as the Apple iPad Pro and weighs in at around 1.4 pounds. Charging and connectivity is done through USB-C and security junkies will like the fingerprint reader. Options include the keyboard cover, the MatePen -- like Apple, you have to pay more to get the stylus -- and an expansion brick that has Ethernet, video ports, and more USB ports in it. Pricing will range anywhere from $699 to $1599, with keyboard another $129, stylus $59, and $89 for the expansion brick/dock.
Both products may prove to be winners -- or not. HP's phone PC will ultimately compete against a Microsoft Surface Phone down the road, but HP has the advantage in focusing the Elite X3 to the enterprise space where there's more cash to be spent on a higher-end device. Huawei rolls into an ever-expanding market of Windows 10 tablets and will go head-to-head against both the Microsoft Surface Pro and the Apple iPad Pro.
All manufacturers are trying to figure out the balance between tablet-as-PC and laptop-as-2-in-1 tablet, with Microsoft shooting at both sides with the Surface Pro and the Surface Book. I'd love to see if Huawei moves further into the laptop-as-2-in-1 tablet to go up against the Surface Book down the road.
Edited by Maurice Nagle