Announced over a year ago, the HP Elite X3 took its time coming to market. It's an ambitious "three in one", a phone, laptop and desktop replacement, with enough power to accomplish most regular tasks in any configuration.
As a phone, the Elite X3 is a beast of a device. It's a big, beautiful object, bearing the new (awesome) death metal HP logo. The company has lifted its design game over the past few years, and this product is one of the better looking devices on the market. The chrome encased screen comes in at just under 15cm, with a stunning 2k display, flanked by Bang and Olufsen speakers. Inside, the X3 comes with 64GB onboard storage and 4GB RAM, making it a powerhouse with no expense spared. There's a choice of fingerprint or iris scanner to keep data safe.
The Elite X3 can be bought with a desktop dock ($1199 as a starter kit). This provides power, an ethernet connection, display port adaptor and three USB ports, to morph the phone into a desktop workstation.
And it doesn't just want to replace your desktop. The third leg in this three-in-one design is a laptop "dock". It's actually just a laptop shell: monitor, battery and keyboard. The brains of the unit is still inside the handset. You connect to the "laptop" wirelessly, or via USB-C. The wireless connection is solid, I was happily tapping away at the keyboard with the X3 tucked away in my bag. It makes for a good looking, svelte machine, with a comfortable keyboard. Battery drains pretty quickly when connected wirelessly, though, so I wish there was an easier way to lock the device into the shell.
I can see this idea of the phone as the one device becoming widespread in the near future, especially in the Facebook-style, battery-caged workplaces that consist of rows of hot desks, with just a monitor, keyboard and mouse waiting for an office drone to come along and plug in.
Skipping the laptop, and instead giving workers a powerful phone that can become a desktop when needed seems the next logical step. It's just one device to buy, and one device for IT to administer. But for that to happen, there needs to be improvements to the ecosystem. Windows Continuum, the software that shrinks and enlarges apps depending on the screen you're using, works flawlessly on the apps that support it. The problem is that's still not many. Windows built-in apps, such as Outlook, Word, and Excel, are obviously best in class, and some third party apps such as Netflix are fantastic, but beyond that, the situation is pretty dire.
To bridge the gap, HP has introduced Workspace, a simple virtual desktop environment that can run traditional desktop Windows apps. Most enterprise customers will already have a virtual desktop environment in place, something like Citrix, and of course that will work here too, just as it can work on Android or iOS.
More exciting for the concept is the recently announced support for Windows desktop apps running on Qualcomm Snapdragon processors. This is not a remake of Windows RT, the mobile version of Windows nobody wanted, but fully fledged Windows on a mobile device.
Unfortunately, the dream of a real version of Photoshop running on a Qualcomm powered mobile chip will probably never come to the Snapdragon 820, the chip powering the Elite X3, but future versions should benefit.
Still, this is exactly what the Windows Phone should have been at launch. With the Elite X3, HP are showing Microsoft the potential of their mobile and desktop hybrid platform.