Virtual Convergence


My October column for Connect Magazine has been put online. The column is entltled Convergence and is about how Bluetooth has allowed me to use my T68i phone as a communications hub among other things. I start by discussing the problems with a wireless laptop solution I'd used:

First, I had another PC card, another service provider and another bill. Second, I sometimes wanted to use the card in my iPAQ when I didn't have it with me. Also, putting a full form factor PC Card in an iPAQ requires a bulky add-on holster. The whole set up is just clunky and, thus, discourages its use. The final straw was that the wireless card was a power hog. I could almost see the battery meter move on my laptop when I was using it.ΚΚΚ

I solved these problems with a nifty little Bluetooth enabled phone from Sony Ericsson (the T68i if you're curious). My hope was that my phone could also serve my data needs without any bulky wires, holsters, or antennae. The Bluetooth phone succeeded beyond my wildest dreams.

From Connect :: Resource/Article :: October Columnist - Phillip J. Windley
Referenced Thu Nov 20 2003 12:00:11 GMT-0700

I think the idea of convergence is often understood. One thing people think of when they hear "convergence" is all in one devices like the Handspring Treo 600 that is a mobile phone, a PIM (personal information manager), web browser, and so on. Interestingly enough, according to Jupiter Research Analyst Michael Gartenberg most people don't want these things. I heard him at CDXPO this week and here's a few interesting things he said:

  • Most people, contrary to popular opinion are willing to carry more than one device.
  • When asked if they'd rather have a free phone without any fancy features, or one of these swiss army knife like devices, the majority of people pick the free phone even at price points as low as $49. These features aren't even worth $50 to them!
  • Satisfaction rates with these devices drops off the longer the owner has it which is contrast to most devices that stay steady or even improve.

Personally, I don't like having to carry my Palm with me when I only need a phone. When I'm headed into Home Depot to get a load of plywood, I'm in a t-shirt and jeans, and there's no place to store a bulky device.

I think that Bluetooth solves these problems by creating what I'm coining as "virtual convergence." I want WAN connectivity in my Palm and my TiBook, but I don't want battery draining radios in each device. With Bluetooth, I get a phone when all I want is a phone. I get a WAN-enabled Palm when that's what I need. I get a WAN-enabled laptop when I need it. In short, its the same benfits you get from components in consumer electronics. What's more, its wireless and all on one account.

This is convergence, but its of a different sort. What's converged are the radios and the functionality, not the devices themselves.