Is it a great gadget if its best trick is turning into something else?

New add-ons turn iPad, Motorola phone into laptops

In the wake of last week's Computer Electronics Show we've all heard far too much about tablet computers and cool phones and machines that go 'bing.'

A couple of accessories make some of them, retroactively, more interesting than they would be alone.

The iPad is so popular it's hard to suggest it's not perfect, but nothing you have to carry around and look at everything on one relatively small screen, let alone keep all your data and do all your typing on a tablet.

What if you could use that pretty Apple screen as a second screen for your Windows laptop?

DisplayLink is offering an iPad app designed to let that happen, for an introductory price of $1.99.

After you load the DisplayLink iPad display app on the iPad and a host app on your Windows machine, both appear in the iPad app, where you can choose to link them and extend your Windows screen to the iPad display.

It doesn't support Aero features in Windows 7 and doesn't sync data or any of that other useful stuff you'd expect from a tool to link a mobile and (relatively) stationary machine together.

It only gives you an additional monitor to use when you're working on your laptop, though that can be a huge advantage.

The other big changeup is the Motorola Atrix, a powerful, 1GHz, dual-core Android phone that can plug into a dock that adds a larger display, keyboard and additional ports in exactly the same way a docking station would convert a laptop into a desktop with full-sized mouse, keyboard and monitor.

Motorola hasn't launched the phone or done any detailed demos of the dock. It has said it would run on AT&T's high(ish) speed HSPA network.

Atrix won the "Best Smartphone" award at CES, which is good for it, but leaves open the question of whether a phone is really the "best" phone if its strongest feature is the ability to turn itself into something that's not a phone.

Kevin Fogarty writes about enterprise IT for ITworld. Follow him on Twitter @KevinFogarty.

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