Wednesday, March 5, 2008

What happened to convergence?

A few years back, there was all this talk about converging technologies. The television and the personal computer would morph into a single device. The wireheads didn't realize that consumers didn't particularly like the idea of sharing the same machine... if the big game is on but the kids need to do their homework, who gets to use it?

But mobile phones and PDA's have converged into the "smart" phone... with the earliest versions stretching the definition of "smart" to new levels. As a business tool, they've become darn-near indispensable, with ubiquitous access to email, web, messaging, calendaring, and yes, even making phone calls. Even so, it turns out that some of the more sensational, entertainment-oriented features are not getting the traction that some predicted. Is access to your fantasy team lineup so time-critical that you'll spend airtime doing it from your phone? Will you really trust the selection of restaurants you see on that little screen?

I've used Google maps on my old Palm Treo 650 and have found it to be very valuable. And when I need something to read, I'll punch up a couple of different web pages and suppress my impatience while they load. (Why isn't optimized for mobile access? Am I missing something?). Games seemed to have found a new delivery medium... do you remember the very first hand-held electronic football game?

So I guess convergence took an unexpected turn, driven (no surprise) by revenue generating activities. What'll happen next? Will GPS finally become an affordable add-on to mid-market devices? Will Sky Caddie offer a downloadable app for a smart-phone? What will be the next big need that gets fulfilled by a portable, hand-held device?

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