Did you know that Chromebooks were originally supposed to be disposable computers? That didn't quite come to pass. But a new computer company called The Hive has a PC that you actually do trade in, year after year.
It's called the Amplicity, and it's a computer like none you've ever seen, a brushed aluminum module small enough to fit right into your pocket, then slot into a docking station which amplifies (get it?) the power of the tiny computer in a variety of ways. Some docks just add HDMI and USB ports for your monitor, mouse, and keyboard, while others cool down the CPU and add the power of a discrete video card to turn it into a 4K video editing beast.
Theoretically, anyhow, because I only got to see mockups of most of that amplification at this year's CES. The only working Amplicity merely housed an Intel Atom processor, 2GB of RAM, and a fairly small SSD. But it did work, and it did dock, and it does have a built-in battery so that if you yank it out of the dock, it doesn't suffer from a sudden lack of electricity. I can attest to that.
But the most interesting part is still the business model. You pay $99 every six months for a subscription that includes the device, 1TB of cloud storage and the latest Adobe content creator software, and you're free to replace it with the latest model as soon as those six months are up. That could be a pretty good deal if you're, say, a student dependent on Adobe software and need a computer to go with it too. (Or you can opt for the black $300 version with an Intel Core M processor.)
However, it sounds like The Hive (is now a good time to mention that it's founded by John Hui of eMachines?) is looking for another sort of lock-in too: it hopes to sell entire companies on the Amplicity, the docking stations, and even the desks and peripherals to go with them. The Hive imagines entire offices using the tech, and then when you go to your local coffee shop you find docks there too. The company's also thinking about docks that add a screen so you could use it more like a smartphone.
Amplicity says it'll have new models out every six months to follow the PC industry upgrade cycle, but you'd have to be pretty damn convinced to bet your company's entire IT setup on these devices instead of more traditional computers.
The Hive plans to release the orange version with the subscription model this spring, and the more powerful black variant by the end of 2015. [The Hive]