A well designed convergence product should combine functions that a targeted user wants into a single platform. The functionality of each component may not be best in class, but it should be good enough to meet almost all of the end user’s needs. The problem I see with many convergence devices today is that designers and marketing people just seem to be randomly combining functionalities to create new products with little concept of the needs of the end user.
Insight Media Analyst
Case in point: the announcement of the Winacord 10.4" digital photo frame with Internet access (see the picture below). Why do you need to browse the Internet from your picture frame? How are these functions connected in a meaningful way?
What I fear is that in this frenzy to create even more convergence devices, we are compounding the problem, not solving the problem. That problem is, that to add more functionality with stand alone devices, you get more and more devices you have to drag around with you. Convergence devices should combine the functions you need into a single platform. But are we merely replacing a host of dedicated function devices with the same amount of convergence devices? And don’t forget all those chargers taking up more room than the actual device and the smaller the device the smaller the battery, the more often you need the charger.
There is a rich history of convergence devices. The TV/VCR combo; the iPhone which combines phone and internet access with a touch interface, PDAs with GPS capabilities; phones with cameras or phones with pico projectors, camera, GPS, MP3 and more. I haven’t found one with a nail clipper yet but that can’t be that far away. We are in the age of the Convergence Device - the electronic version of the Swiss army knife.
Why the interest in convergence devices, you might ask? Google ‘All In One Computer’ and in a less than a second you will be amazed that are 213,000,000 potential answers on anything you want to know about this topic. This of course is easily beat by the search for ‘All In One Phone’ that yields 685,000,000 hits on Google. The modern cell phone is the first device that has almost completely morphed in to a convergence device (try to buy a phone without a camera).
This trend of adding features to devices is very interesting and leads to a very complex question for all the marketing folks out there. In the beginning of a new device, a dedicated device made a lot of sense, as the functionality in dedicated devices typically surpasses any convergence device. For example, the first iPod had a several GB hard drive where the first phone with music player had a mere 64 MB available for music. Today solid-state memory is cheaply available in the GB range and the performance difference is shrinking making an excellent case for the convergence device.
The newest device making a big splash in the electronic world is the electronic book reader (EBR) (IM has just released a market and technology report on EBRs). When we add a touch screen, phone, wireless and GPS to an EBR, what do we get? Is it a really large GPS, a big screen phone or a low power computer? If the performance of all components is good enough to fulfill all the consumers’ demands we end up with the ultimate convergence device.
Convergence devices will compete in the marketplace with dedicated devices. But what I want to know is, do convergence devices really reduce the number of electronic devices we carry around or not? Drop me a note after you count all of them and let me know what you think.