Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Gadget convergence - the future of phones, laptops and netbooks!

Much hullabaloo about netbooks and operating systems in the last week, with browsers and office applications clouding the horizon. The most entertaining reaction is from Fake Steve Jobs. An Apple take is relevant to the discussion, as it is all about convergence! Read on...

It's not a surprise if the iPod gets a camera, as recently rumored! No reason to create a major difference between the iPhone and the iPod - just take out the phone and sell for less - easier scale, easier manufacturing, easier reuse, easier software, more iTunes, easier user migration, etc. - no brainer!

What will you always carry with you, tho', wherever you go? The phone!!! What's made it finally fly is convergence! I hated carrying a phone and an mp3 player and my Radio Shack Rolodex and a laptop and a camera and a camcorder and my wallet and my car keys on a trip, so .... I didn't! Back in the day, I did have a Yepp MP3 player that was small enough to carry with my Treo. The iPhone's camera is terrible, so we're still forced to carry a separate digital camera - but that won't be required with the 3Gs (when I get one). At some point, the wallet is not mandatory - the phone is the payment device, and a fingerprint reader!

Now, why would one want to carry a Kindle or a CrunchPad to read a book when convergence nirvana is upon us? The reason, I assert, is "form factor discontinuity".

As convergence envelopes us, hardware performance, computing power, price, etc. will not be issues (the phone will get even more powerful and will double as a defibrillator!). Neither will battery life - the extended battery life on the Kindle for its e-ink-y display will no longer hold an advantage when all portable devices can be used for the whole day (or more), recharged at night ... anyone would rather have a high-def color screen instead of a b&w.

So what gives? -> Form-factor discontinuity!!

What's that? Simple ... I don't want to read a book on a 2x3 screen, and I don't want to watch a blu-ray movie on a laptop. That's why these devices (book readers, TVs) exist - these form factors are intrinsically different, serving different needs. Don't get me wrong! It's not like these activities are not possible - they're just not optimal. Of course I'd read a book on my iPhone if I were marooned on an island! Of course I'd watch a movie on a laptop if I were at an airport and there was no choice - it's just not what I'd choose to do on a regular basis.

That's also why I'm personally not too hot about Netbooks! It's an artificial form-factor - neither a phone, nor a laptop, serving really no need in the long term. If a laptop/iPad was cheaper and lighter, would a Netbook exist? No! There's no real need for this form factor once those parameters are tweaked! (cheap Macbook Air :-))

Now - does this mean that we'll have to live with this form factor discontinuity - multiple devices for different form factors? Yes - until some form of projection technology can create scalable form factor displays. If I can transfer my phone screen through laser projection in my glasses, or via a rollable or foldable larger screen, or holographic projection, I break the discontinuity! Until then, I'll be forced into using/carrying multiple devices. If I could project an HD movie in my living room from my phone, would I need a TV? My laptop would just be a docking station for my phone!

Maybe Fake Steve knows it! The only operating system needed is the Phone Operating System (POS)!

Let's get in form! Let's all get POSitive!
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