Consumer Technology

Modular Kangaroo Notebook makes laptop portable

Kangaroo Notebook
Source: InFocus

Believe it or not, there's a way to get your hands on a personal Kangaroo — but this one isn't a marsupial that lives in a zoo or in the wild.

In this case, the Kangaroo in question is the brainchild of mobile-computer maker InFocus. Launched just last week, the Kangaroo Notebook — a nod to the marsupial's ability to hide its young in a pouch — is a pocket-sized metal block that's taller and thinner than a stack of credit cards, and half the weight of a modern smartphone.

The 32 GB (which can be expanded to 256 GB) notebook does nothing on its own — that is, until it's paired with a laptop-like dock that's included. It then becomes a fully functional Windows 10 laptop.

The notebook is InFocus' latest effort at making a modular computer and putting the power of a traditional laptop in the user's pocket. The brains of the device is the removable, card-sized Kangaroo Mini, which holds the processor, memory and storage. The idea is that multiple users can use one computer unit but own individual Minis — having one for entertainment, another for work, etc.— thus saving space and money.

When the Mini is plugged into an included laptop-like dock, the dock uses the Mini's processor and storage to function like a standard Windows-powered laptop. When removed, the Mini retains all personal information in its onboard storage, meaning it's possible to maintain all the info on just the card.

This isn't Kangaroo's first attempt to create a small modular computer. Earlier this year, the company launched the Kangaroo Pro, which placed a Windows 10 desktop into a slim, black box about the size of a paperback novel when docked. However, the Pro and Mini are not interchangeable, and the company does not currently have plans to integrate the two lines, or release a desktop-style dock for the Mini.

"We didn't want to kill that segment [of customers using the Pro]," Ben Chu, Director of Sales at Kangaroo, told CNBC at a recent trade show in New York. The company is keeping the two lines separate to prevent product line cannibalization and to avoid riling customers already using the Kangaroo Pro desktop.

The idea of a modular PC is not new, and in some ways has fallen out of fashion as smartphones and tablets have boomed.

Many offices use "thin client" laptops — lightweight computers with network access that act as a monitor with heavy-duty servers doing the actual computing. Modern, professional-grade laptops use docking systems that increase functionality. Meanwhile, companies such as Motorola have made smartphones that attach to a dock and function like a traditional computer.

Kangaroo Module
Source: InFocus

Kangaroo, however, currently does not plan to build standalone functionality (like a smartphone) into the Mini module. Instead, every Notebook sold will include two Mini units, with the hope of selling the vision of having different Minis for different users, or using one for leisure and another for work.

The company also hopes to test if there is a market for a modular computer, initially limiting sales through online retailer Newegg. It will go on sale at the site for for $299, and includes two Kangaroo Mini modules and one laptop dock.

Each Kangaroo Mini contains a laptop-grade Intel computer processor and two GB of RAM. The Mini will be sold with a "Notebook Dock" — a shell that resembles a traditional laptop and includes an 11.6-inch HD display, webcam, keyboard, touchpad, ports and a battery.