Remember when tech did one thing well?
Well, forget about it. It’s abundantly clear that, for better or worse, tech gear is going to be loaded with as many features as possible, whether or not they serve a useful purpose. Sometimes they do, and sometimes they don’t, but there’s no shortage of multi-purpose devices.
The most obvious upcoming example of this would have to be Apple’s iPad, but here in Australia we’ll have to wait a while to properly assess how well or poorly it handles the multi-function job of ebook reader, music player, web browser and portable Street Fighter IV machine. Apple announced mid-April that the originally touted “late April” release date was going to slip to late May, because it had sold so well in the US. We’re even meant to be happy about this. The official statement from Apple reads:
“We know that many international customers waiting to buy an iPad will be disappointed by this news, but we hope they will be pleased to learn the reason – the iPad is a runaway success in the US thus far.”
Yeah, whatever. Some companies are just plain weird.
The iPad isn’t the only converged device on the block, however. The most obvious tech area where converged devices play is in home modems and routers. The combination of router and modem’s something that most vendors have offered for some time, and there’s an emerging trend to add even more functionality to the router, including USB ports for sharing printers or files, VoIP compatibility and even inbuilt displays to give to an instant health check of your network and Internet connection.
Telstra’s also just taken the wraps off its latest converged device, the T-Hub. Looking rather like an iPad on steroids, it combines a DECT wireless phone and base station with a Tablet-style device that can be used for making calls, keeping up with social media contacts, texting and photo display.
It’s a neat idea, and it’s certainly capable of a lot more than a standard phone handset is, but at the same time, it encapsulates the dangers of converged devices. Yes, it’ll do a lot. But it’s limited only to Telstra customers who also have BigPond accounts. It’s limited to the applications that Telstra’s got pre-loaded onto it, and naturally Telstra applications predominate. Quite how well it’ll handle complex Web pages, such as those with forms or Flash is entirely unclear.
Finally — and this is the real catch of a converged tech device — it’s a putting all your eggs in one basket style device. If it goes awry, as tech is wont to do, then there goes your phone line. Your photo frame. Your easy Net tablet.
That’s not to say it’s a bad buy per se. It’s worth balancing the convenience of a converged device — fewer boxes to manage, a single interface to deal with — against the issues that it may introduce if things go wrong, or if you work out that there’s a feature that it doesn’t do as well as a dedicated device may have.