Is Mobile Device Convergence Coming to an End or Just Starting?

by Todd Ogasawara

Are we heading towards a mobile convergence utopia where one device will be a phone, camera, MP3 player, GPS, game console, PIM, and overall super-gadget? Or, are we going to be buying more narrowly feature-focused best-of-breed mobile devices with separate mobile phone, camera, etc., etc.?

I was in the in super duper ultra-converged Star Trek Tricorder type device camp until I reviewed a good but non-smartphone, the
Sony Ericsson T610
back in late 2003.
Back then, I wrote:

The T610 performs fewer functions than either the PDA-phones or the smartphones. However, it delivers these fewer functions extremely well and with excellent battery-power efficiency. Its excellent and easy-to-configure Bluetooth capability lets you easily pair it with whatever Bluetooth-enabled PDA or notebook PC for a custom-fit mobile computing environment. It may be, then, that this kind of best-of-breed individual components provides a better mobile-computing model for some of us by providing a simpler and timelier upgrade path for different phone and PDA features.

Since then we've seen even more converged devices mostly with the phone-camera-mp3-game mix.
However, we've also seen really good single function devices like MP3 players (the iPod and others), small high density USB storage drives, and lots of low-priced mobile phones that are mostly used for voice and text messaging.

And, since the process of getting devices approved for use as mobile phones is far longer and more difficult than getting other kinds of devices to market, perhaps converging functions on the phone slows down product delivery.
So, maybe it would be better if manufacturers slowed down the convergence effort and take another look around. I know I think I might be better off as a consumer and end-user if I had a good solid mobile phone that had only good voice quality, good battery life, a solid Bluetooth 2.0 stack, and fast data service.
Assuming it could reliably connect any other device I was carrying (PDA, camera, MP3 player, etc.) to connect to the Internet, I could still do everything I do today and pick and choose what I upgrade (new camera, new MP3 player, etc.) as new devices come to market.

What do you think? Which way are we heading? To device convergence or divergence?


2005-04-21 01:49:54
Just starting
I currently use a PDA and a 2.5G cellphone, and right now I'm resisting convergence although it's getting more difficult.

The main reasons are battery life and screen size, although the Nokia 6600 and Sony Clie TJ37 are actually pretty close. The big issue for me though is battery life. If I use wifi on the PDA I can expect maybe 20-30 minutes of realistic battery life, but on a converged device this would then render the phone useless. I tend to use wifi a lot , so it looks like I won't be converging any time now.

Also I'd like to be reassured that the build quality of a converged device will be as high as with the two separate devices. Based on past experience this is unlikely to happen..

2005-04-21 02:10:45
Convergence WILL HAPPEN : here is why
The main driver of convergence is BIOLOGICAL : how many hands do human have ? How wide are humans pockets ?

The other two drivers are technical :
1) Functions in IT Are in the end just Hardware and Software : so moore's law will give MIPS/Megs
2) One extraordinary important revotion is goin'on : the emergence of Energy Source that are
first, resistant to "Aging" and able to refill in a minute...
Once you will have that and a device able to last at least 1 day in huge usage, energy won't be a problem anymore !!!

Who will dominate the Convergent Era ? PC Makers moving down ? MP3/MP4 Makers moving around ? Or phone makers moving up ?

The first have the Business Model, the second have the right price (600-800 $) and the third have the volume/network ...

We'll see...