Chip Shots by Chip Griffin

A Non-Proliferation Treaty for Gadgets

The much anticipated convergence of portable electronic gadgets still seems like a far off dream (photo by SlipStreamJC)

It seems as if we have heard about the coming convergence of electronic communications tools for years now. And yet while we continue to see ever more powerful gadgets that do indeed have greater functionality than their predecessors, we still can’t shed all of our gear and replace it with one central device.

Some company will be the first to adopt what you might call a “non-proliferation treaty for gadgets” by creating that single device that handles all of our major portable electronic needs well. And they will prosper greatly.

Apple no doubt hopes that the iPad (which went on sale with pre-orders today) will play an important role in that space. But it doesn’t touch all the bases. The ideal of being able to carry just one device that handles the vast majority of our electronic needs still seems to lie somewhere off on the horizon. At times, it feels like one does on a boat or in an airplane — you can chase the horizon but you will never get there.

I admit to being a bit of a gadget freak, and I know that I accumulate far more electronic gizmos than the average person. I have said I don’t plan to get an iPad — and I honestly don’t — but I’d be foolish to say it will never happen. I often buy these tools just to test them out and understand how they work and how they fit into the digital communications ecosystem. (I even convince myself that I “have” to do it to be good at what I do in trying to be a digital communications thought leader.)

Here’s a sampling of the gadgets that I have that are among those that one company or another (or many) have suggested can be converged someday:

  • laptop computer
  • tablet computer
  • video camera
  • cell phone for voice
  • smart phone for applications/email
  • D-SLR camera
  • electronic book reader
  • MP3 player
  • bluetooth headset
  • wireless network hotspot

Most of these I carry with me at all times, and it gets to be quite a burden. Yes, I know that my cell phone can take pictures and video, but not very well. My smartphone can play music, but not as well as my dedicated MP3 player. I can read books on my laptop or phone, but the experience isn’t as smooth as on the screen optimized for reading. If I try really hard (and break a few rules probably) I can tether my phone and avoid using the hotpost — but then it probably won’t connect with all of my devices like the official product does.

You get the picture.

Convergence will only be complete when the functionality merges in such a way that we don’t need to make significant sacrifices in the quality of the individual components. I hope that day is coming soon, but put me down as skeptical.

Photo credit: SlipStreamJC via Flickr

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