Converging Technology: It’s All Coming Together

It has been said that technology is making the world a smaller place thanks to faster transportation and communication. Well, technology is also making all of our gadgets smaller and companies have been bundling them all together into a single handheld device. And it’s changing the world and the way we live.

There was a time not long ago when we’d wake to our alarm clock, turn on the radio or TV, put on our watches and on our way out grab our CD or cassette Walkman and maybe a camera. Toss in video games, calculators, walkie-talkies, answering machines, voice recorders, video cameras, computers with email and Internet and you’re looking at fifteen gadgets, thousands of dollars, and maybe a hundred pounds of gear. Now all of that can be often found in the pocket sized and affordable cell phone.

Converging Technology - Creative Labs Zen Vision Portable Media Player
A great example of converging technology, the Creative Zen Vision)

Today’s gadgets are lightening our loads and saving us thousands of dollars by bundling what we need.

Sure, some components, like cameras, video, gaming, radio and MP3 players will take another year or two before they really kick ass but most cell phones didn’t include them at all a few years ago. At the same time a whole bunch of other digital devices are combining products into one affordable gadget. Take for example the Zen Vision from Creative Labs, it has a large hi-res colour screen to display downloaded movies, videos, TV, photos and is combined with an impressive MP3 player, radio, Outlook calendar and contact lists, clock and 30GB hard drive. It can also be plugged into a TV screen to play videos or photo slideshows (with music playing in the background).

The new all-in-one gadgets are definitely making a lot of things obsolete very quickly. It’s tough to figure out who will still be buying CDs in a year or two, as they go the way of LP records and cassettes before them. During a recent trip to a Best Buy to replace an old and broken CD player the salesman told us that they didn’t really sell CD players anymore, although the DVD players could still handle the old CD format.

Even the much-hyped iPod will struggle as MP3 and video cellphones improve in quality and capacity. Why carry an all-in-one cellphone and a redundant iPod? People won’t if they have the option. As for the oldest of personal devices, the watch, Faze was at the M3 music/technology festival in Miami (sponsored by Motorola) where the international club crowd in attendance had the latest cell phones but a large percentage didn’t wear a watch. Most said they just got the time from their phones.

The interesting question is what other things can be stuffed into these all-in-one devices. In the next few years look for much better voice recognition, global positioning systems, digital radio services and before long phones will be moving towards replacing the other things in your pocket or purse… money and keys.

Motorola ROKR Phone - Converging Technology
A Motorola ROKR Phone combining cell phone and music player functionality.

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