By show of hands, how many people have attempted a business trip with only a (fill in your favorite term: PDA, Smartphone, whatever)? Keep those hands up . . . how many of this group has been satisfied with that experience? Anyone? We are at an infection point. No, NOT inflection -- please don't use that term (and don't call a stomach a tummy and don't ever let me catch you saying "mani-pedi"). We're becoming infected with the notion that we will not need a laptop. The choices include a.) the smartphone b.) the ultralight PC c.) the tablet and d.) the MacBook Air. There's no perfect choice, but there are inventive approaches. The answer just isn't here yet. Celio's Redfly is yet another interesting approach: e.) both "a" and "b."
The Redfly Mobile Companion essentially extends your smartphone onto a small display/keyboard device over Bluetooth or USB. Celio Marketing Veep Brad Warnock calls it "the perfect size" (that's his job, right?). Warnock says that PDAs have come a long way in processing, storage, and size, but the small screens and keyboards prevent consistent productivity.
The device weighs less than 2 pounds, has an 8-inch-high screen, eight hours of battery life, and can even charge up your phone. You do have to load up a software driver on your phone.
OK, so it sounds a little kludgy. You've got to bring an extra device just to display something that's on a perfectly capable computing platform in the first place. But I'll be the first to admit that displaying documents on a smartphone is the primary reason I can't leave my laptop in the office. Outside of squishing the document, or making the smartphone screen bigger (how much bigger can it be than the iPhone?), there really isn't much choice other than to have some kind of VGA connector from the phone to a monitor (and then hope there's a future where monitors are just laying around). Maybe its best feature: Since it uses a VGA connector, you can plug it into a projector, so your nasty PowerPoint presentations don't require you to lug around your laptop.
Warnock says that the technology compresses the data so that the response, even over Bluetooth, is a nonissue. We'll have to play around with it a bit to see what happens to content that has been made mobile-device friendly (i.e., smaller). Celio is planning an enterprise launch of its product for those who run things like Salesforce.com and expense reports.
Another potential pitfall: It only supports Windows Mobile. But Warnock says Celio is in talks with others, and has prototypes of other platforms in development. The product is available in March, and will run $499.