Display Dock for new Lumias will cost $99

Dock helps smartphone replace PC, Microsoft says

brian roper dock

Microsoft will charge $99 for an upcoming Display Dock device to connect next-generation Lumia 950 and Lumia 950XL smartphones with full-sized keyboards and large desktop displays, a company spokeswoman told Computerworld late Thursday.

The device, roughly the size of a cigarette pack and with seven different ports, appears like your typical, lowly dock. However, Microsoft marketers have pointed out that the dock can turn a powerful Lumia smartphone into a near-fully functioning PC.

The new Lumia phones, expected to ship sometime in November, will run Windows 10, which is a cross-platform OS that runs on tablets, laptops and desktops as well. With the new OS, Microsoft has promoted the concept of unified apps that can work across various platforms under what it terms the Continuum concept.

The Display Dock will begin a global rollout timed to the sales start of the two smartphones in November and was "designed exclusively for Lumia 950 and Lumia 950 XL and is an optional accessory...estimated to retail for $99, excluding taxes," the Microsoft spokeswoman said in an email. Cables to connect to the dock will apparently cost extra.

The dock will be sold through the vendor's online store and Microsoft retail stores, partner operators and some other resellers and retailers, the spokeswoman said. Pricing for the Lumia 950 and 950 XL will start at $549 and $649 for 32GB versions, respectively, Microsoft vice president Panos Panay announced in a two-hour debut on Tuesday.

Also at that event, CEO Satya Nadella called the two phones "the most productive on the planet," adding, "You can run your entire business on them. In developing markets, they can be your first or only computing devices."

Not everybody agrees that a pocket-sized smartphone can soon take the place of a laptop or desktop to power an entire business, but Microsoft's Display Dock seems to be the Redmond, Wash. vendor's stepping stone to getting there. A big question remains as to whether independent Windows 10 developers can build enough Continuum apps fast enough, analysts have said.

Microsoft marketing manager Brian Roper demonstrated the Display Dock at the Tuesday event, showing it is possible to interact with the phone's interface through a full-size keyboard, mouse and large desktop display connected to the Display Dock.

"I can use my phone like a PC," Roper said, demonstrating how he pulled up the phone's start screen on the larger display, then used desktop keyboard shortcuts to switch between Office apps. He also grabbed images and PowerPoint presentations from a thumb drive, through the dock, and was able to change a highlight color from purple to black by using the processing power of the Lumia device.

Microsoft hasn't published full specs of the Display Dock, but Roper and Panay said both the Dock and Lumia devices will have new USB-C ports, which Panay said allows the Lumias to have 5Gbps throughput.

The USB-C port is on the bottom of each of the smartphones and on one side of the Dock. On the other side of the dock are six other ports, including three USB ports and an HDMI port (supporting full 1080p video) and a display port. It isn't clear what the sixth port on that side is for.

The USB-C port used in both devices was developed from a specification announced a year ago by the USB 3.0 Promoter Group, part of the USB Implementers Forum. The port can support both power and peripherals.

Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard and Intel are part of the Promoter Group. USB-C has been used in several new tablets and laptops, including the MacBook Air, and first appeared in the Nokia N1 tablet late in 2014.

Microsoft has posted a photo and specs for a "Microsoft Display Dock" on its website that shows a somewhat different device than the one demonstrated at the Tuesday event. The online device is shown with a silver case and has only 2 USB 2.0 ports, while the Display Dock shown on Tuesday was all black and had three USB ports. Microsoft didn't explain the differences or say when the online version was posted.

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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