Thirty years ago I read an article about how the portable phone would change the way we work, titled "Your office is where you are." Ever since, I've been following the migration of our computers from the desktop to the laptop to our phones, under the theme of Your office is in your pants. Christopher Mims, now at the Wall Street Journal, noted a few years ago how he used his iPhone for almost all of his reporting tasks and in 2012, he wrote in MIT Technology Review:

Looking further into the future, there is the very real possibility that our phones will quite simply become our default computing hubs. And by computing, I mean just about everything with a chip in it.

I think that Mim’s future has finally arrived, and much to my Mac fanboi surprise, it's courtesy of Microsoft and HP, in the form of the new HP Elite X3 phone. It’s being marketed as a business machine, a phone that plugs into a keyboard and screen to become a laptop or can be set up with a docking station to connect to a monitor and a keyboard for a full desktop setup. All powered by the phone, just as Chris and I have been dreaming of.

HP extenderPlug it into this 'extender' and you have a laptop. (Photo: HP)

Verge considers it a powerful phone:

With a 6-inch, quad HD display, HP is proudly defining the Elite x3 as a phablet, and a powerful one at that. It has a Snapdragon 820 processor, 4GB of RAM, and 64GB of internal storage that can be expanded to 2TB using microSD.

Jacob Kastrenakes of The Verge writes that it is designed around Continuum:

…a Windows 10 feature that lets Windows smartphones plug into a larger display and function almost like a full Windows computer with mouse and keyboard. It’s the kind of potentially killer feature that could make someone want a Windows phone over an iPhone — at least, if HP and Microsoft can sell people on the dream.

It’s a dream I have been sold on for some time, investing in keyboards and adapters to see if I could use my iPhone as a full computer. I have been trying to do this (and writing about it) since Palm Pilots and Handsprings were a thing. But as much as Apple tries to make IOS and OX work together, I cannot do multiple screens and cannot work on the phone the way I do on the computer — even with a keyboard and a big screen. It’s just different. According to Microsoft, that won't be the case here:

The HP Elite x3 can be docked and used like a desktop PC so that people can do familiar desktop PC tasks, like using a keyboard and mouse with Microsoft Office, browsing the internet with the Microsoft Edge browser. It feels like a PC. However, because of the engineering work we’ve done with HP, people can simply undock their HP Elite x3, and have the versatility of both a phone and PC in their pocket.

computer setupIt really did feel like a computer! (Photo: Lloyd Alter)

The Elite X3 isn’t out yet, but since I haven't used a computer running on Microsoft for about six years, I thought I would go down to the Microsoft store and check out Windows 10 on their latest tablets. Much to my surprise, they had a setup of a top-of-the-line Lumia phone running 10 connected through an adapter to a big monitor and via Bluetooth to a full-sized keyboard. I spent a few minutes playing with it and really, I couldn’t tell that I was on a phone instead of a computer. Of course I'm not used to Windows and did not run any tests or try to do a post through our content management system, but it felt like a computer.

If we're not at the point where our phone is the default computing hub, we are awfully close. Between the growing power of the phones and the storage in the cloud, we may not need anything else.

Young people who don't have to do a lot of typing are already there; my daughter has not used her notebook computer in months and does everything on her phone. Perhaps that’s why HP is aiming the Elite X3 at the business market; everyone else is already living in their phones. I suspect that in a year or two, we might all be as well, and I suspect also that Windows phones are about to become a thing, the default computer in our pants.

Lloyd Alter ( @lloydalter ) writes about smart (and dumb) tech with a side of design and a dash of boomer angst.