Earlier in the year, Samsung announced its $99 DeX Pad as an alternative to its older $150 DeX Station, which the company previously released to work with the Galaxy S8. Now, the South Korean company is positioning DeX not as a series of hardware accessories, like it has in the past, but as a "mobile-powered computing platform."
The company's aim is to usher in an era of "mobile only" where business users eschew laptops and desktops in favor of tablets and phones. Of course, many work tasks require a large screen, full-sized keyboard, mouse, and the capabilities a non-mobile OS offers, hence the release of DeX mode on the Galaxy Tab S4 and Galaxy Note9.
Access DeX via an HDMI adaptor
Samsung's new DeX mode allows users to access the DeX OS from the Galaxy Note9 or Galaxy Tab S4 without a full docking station or DeX pad. Instead, users can switch on DeX mode and connect to an external monitor, keyboard, and mouse with a simple HDMI to USB-C adaptor. The DeX Pad and DeX Station are still available for business users who want to access DeX via the Galaxy S9 or S8, and the HDMI adaptor works in essentially the same way as DeX's earlier incarnations.
By plugging your DeX-mode-enabled Samsung device into the adaptor, pad, or dock, you can access whatever is on your phone or tablet on a full-sized desktop screen, complete with a keyboard and mouse.
Devices connected to DeX accessories can still be used normally, but users get the additional functionality of a standalone computer. The UI automatically scales to screens of different sizes (with or without a mouse and keyboard), and the ability to use Microsoft and Adobe products – not to mention access remote desktops – is a real win.
DeX uses an enhanced Android interface, which supports multiple resizable windows, dragging and dropping files, and common keyboard shortcuts, such as Ctrl-X to cut text and Ctrl-V to paste. Samsung has collaborated with Microsoft, Adobe, and other software publishers to optimize Microsoft Office apps, Adobe Lightroom Mobile, and other popular mobile apps to appear more natural on the large screen. Apps that aren't optimized may appear in a phone-shaped window but will be functional. On the corporate side, DeX supports virtual Windows desktops via Citrix, VMware, Amazon Web Services.
Past attempts at creating a mobile-only workplace
If the idea of a docking station or adaptor that turns a phone into a desktop sounds familiar to you, that's because it is. Prior and current attempts at conquering the phone desktop dock space include the Microsoft Display Dock, Motorola's Atrix (now defunct), Sentio's Superbook, HP Elite x3 Desk Dock and a handful of others. Traditionally, docks that turn phones or tablets into desktops have only managed niche appeal, but Samsung thinks the new and improved DeX will be different.
The reviews of the previous Samsung DeX read much like reviews for prior attempts at desk docks: People liked the general idea but weren't sure it would go anywhere. Eric McCarty, vice president of mobile B2B product marketing at Samsung Electronics America, said the DeX "delivers seamless access to business applications, including Microsoft, Adobe as well as virtual Windows desktops and apps from Citrix, VMware, and Amazon for today's mobile workforces."
Samsung has reportedly received positive feedback regarding DeX from enterprise-level organizations, especially those in the finance, government and healthcare fields. The company also believes the new DeX adaptor will make adoption possible in public safety spheres, potentially replacing rugged laptops and tablets in vehicles.
When asked about public response, McCarty confirmed that but said there had also been strong interest from small and medium-sized businesses, including those in the home office segment. However, positioning DeX as a mobile-accessible OS and not a family of hardware accessories puts it in direct competition with Chrome OS, which is already available on many mobile devices (and, of course, Chromebooks).
So, what does all this mean for you as an entrepreneur? Is now the time to jump on the DeX bandwagon? For starters, unlike other mobile to desktop combinations, Samsung has fully integrated security features and biometric authenticators into their system, and offering connection in the form of a highly portable HDMI adaptor is a step in the right direction. They've succeeded at creating, as Werner Goertz, the research director for personal technologies at Gartner, put it, "a more complete processing environment." In other words, the Samsung DeX looks, feels, and functions more like a standalone PC than previous mobile-to-desktop docks and adaptors.
Despite the many features of the Samsung DeX, Goertz thinks it's unlikely that a mobile-to-desktop dock will ever completely replace personal laptops: "There will always be a segment of users, especially in content creation, that will prefer a laptop or even desktop."
However, that doesn't mean DeX is off the table for small business use. Utilizing DeX mode could potentially save business owners money, especially those who operate in high-cost real estate areas. As rental costs climb, many SMBs are shifting from a one-desk-per-employee model to a hot-desk model where employees on a rotating schedule share the same desk space. The DeX Station or Pad or HDMI are ideal for this setup as it allows multiple employees to work at the same workstation. However, for DeX to be fully implemented all employees would have to use compatible Samsung products, and with an increase in BYOD businesses, this could prove challenging.
Additionally, it seems as if Samsung is operating under the assumption that having a mobile/desktop friendly OS is compelling enough to drive device adoption, but that seems unlikely. That said, if you already have a device with DeX mode, give it a try and see how you like it.