Samsung’s new DeX dock is really nifty, especially if you’re a bleeding edge enthusiast. The small, puck-shaped docking station enables you to pop in a Samsung Galaxy S8 or S8+ and turn your sleek, mobile phone into a desktop system. These are indeed very snazzy devices — and the phones they work with are as well. Holding a Galaxy S8 almost immediately started up the “I wannit” syndrome in myself and several of the folks in my office.
The real question is: How useful is the DeX for enterprise employees — today?
Right now, probably not very. There have been other attempts at creating a docking station for a phone — HP’s Elite x3 phone, which premiered in August 2016, used Microsoft’s Windows 10 Continuum mode to deliver a PC-like experience when placed into its Desk Dock accessory. However, the phone never took off — possibly because it was loaded with Microsoft’s Windows 10 Mobile, which never became competitive with the iOS and Android phones already flooding the market.
Eventually, having a phone you can plug into the nearest display/keyboard to do more complex work could work, especially in this extremely mobile society, where lightweight notebooks are the norm rather than the exception and onsite staffers don’t necessarily sit at the same desk every day. In a company where nobody needs to use more complex software packages, for example, you could have employees coming in, sitting down in an empty cubicle, popping in their phones, and getting immediately to work.
However, the idea only works if it works for everyone — and that doesn’t look like something that’s going to happen in the near future, starting with the simple fact that not everyone has — or necessarily wants, or can afford — a Samsung phone.
The DeX makes the most sense in a company where anyone can come in, including a staffer who has just flown in from a satellite office, drop a phone into a DeX in the first available cubicle and get to work. But these are not cheap phones — the Samsung Galaxy S8 starts at about $750 — and since the DeX only works within the Samsung ecosystem, it means that the company would need to equip a good percentage of its staff. Not an easy thing to do, especially considering that BYOD has become the norm in a great many (if not most) companies.
I’m not saying that the DeX isn’t without its uses. For example, an individual employee could take the phone home (without having to schlep a laptop) and then just pop it into a DeX to do a little work after dinner without having to commandeer a home system. But the DeX won’t make it any easier to get work done on the train home.
On the whole, something like the DeX works best when it is not limited to a single manufacturer’s ecosystem. Samsung is probably hoping that, between its phones, its Knox security software and the DeX, there will be enough value so that companies will commit in the same way that many consumers have committed to Apple’s ecosystem. Some analysts think that this strategy could succeed. It’s certainly a gamble — one that, I think, will only pay off if Samsung sees the DeX as part of a wider strategy, and one that doesn’t only encompass expensive flagship phones.