Belkin has addressed two computing trends and redesigned what has been arguably the office's most unattractive peripheral: the dock. On June 4 it introduced a new docking stand for Windows 8 tablets and another for Ultrabooks.
Docks aren't a new product for Belkin, the 30-year-old accessories and peripherals company that in March acquired mobile-router-maker Linksys.
"When we were designing these, two things made it really interesting," Tim North, Belkin's global product manager, told eWEEK. "We'd made docking stands before, but everything changed with USB 3.0, because it can provide the bandwidth necessary for super-speed data transfer."
The docks also offer a flexibility that's new.
"They offer universality, as opposed to previous stations that were specific. HP or Dell, for example, had specific docks for their laptops and connectors," North said. "Now you can use it on any laptop."
Both stands also offer dual video-out ports, so that a user can connect an Ultrabook or tablet to two monitors. The docks can also be adjusted for the ergonomically ideal scenario of putting all three screens at the same viewing level.
In 2011, Intel introduced the concept of "Ultrabook"—laptops or convertibles that meet certain fast, thin and light specifications—in response to what's been called the post-PC era.
To meet Intel's Ultrabook specifications, however, many laptops had to lose some of their ports, said North.
"People have a need for ports to add legacy peripherals or new peripherals," he added, saying that office workers also often do without the convenience of peripherals like an extra monitor because of the hassle involved in connecting, disconnecting and reconnecting—a hassle the Belkin docks solve.
They also solve the matter of lots of ugly wires.
"The port replicator often creates more mess, so we wanted to pay attention to that," North said. "One thing we did is include a shorter USB cable that goes directly from the dock to the notebook, so no cables are on the front. There are also two clips on the back to route your cables and help take up the extra cable," not unlike the prongs on a vacuum cleaner.
The docks themselves were also reimagined as items that wouldn't become eyesores once the computing devices they hold were removed.
"[The new docks] are made out of metal, very heavy and sturdy, and were designed to really look like a show piece, or something that you'd want to have on your desk," North said.
A final perk, he noted, is the combination of Windows 8 and the easy addition of peripheral monitors, connected by just plugging in the USB 3.0.
"[Windows 8] is a little harder to use with your fingers," North said. "But with the two monitors, it lets you use Windows 8 in a productivity space that's much better."
The Windows 8 docking stand is compatible with all Windows 8 tablets based on Atom and Intel Core-i processors. The Ultrabook stand supports Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7 and Windows 8. (Neither supports Windows RT.)
The docks will be available in the United States in late June for $249.99 each.