Solutions At Hand

Handhelds, smartphones, mobile technology and the digital lifestyle.

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    Michael is a trainer and consultant specializing in making mobility technology work in people's everyday lives.
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Convergence and other buzzwords.

Posted by Michael Brown on June 12, 2005

There are a lot of “buzzwords” in the tech industry, and they’re seldom broken down into simple language and clear analysis. The one I’ve chosen for today is “convergence”. Next week, I’ll look at “inter-operability”.

Convergence in technology refers to the evolution of hardware and software so that the functions of several pieces of equipment can be combined into one. A Treo smartphone is an example of a converged device. It combines the power of a handheld computer with the voice and data features of a digital cellular phone. So, that makes converged devices better, right? Well, yes and no.

Stand-alone or single purpose devices are designed to do one thing, and do it well. Converged devices are designed to carry out multiple tasks, which requires both the hardware (and the user interface elements, like buttons) and software to be more general, in order to accommodate those different tasks. Any converged device will involve trade-offs compared to similar single-purpose devices, *guaranteed*.

The question really becomes whether or not the benefits of a converged device out way any drawbacks of not using a single-purpose device. My Dad is fond of using the phrase “Use the right tool for the right job”. I’ve got lots of tools of various types: some are single purpose, because it is the best tool for the job. Others are multi-purpose, because it’s more convenient. Generally, I like multi-purpose tools, which is why I’ve loved the Palm Platform since I first started using it. The biggest advantages of a converged device over single-purpose devices will always be the reduced number of items that one has to carry. Using a Palm Handheld or a Treo has allowed me to get rid of many single-purpose devices, and replace them with a single device, which I carry with me everywhere.

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