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By Jason Grigsby

Published on January 26th, 2009


Convergence is one of the buzz words that I hate.

I think it started with multimedia computers in the early 90s. From that point forward, every so often you would get a new wave of articles proclaiming how all of the disparate electronics we own were going to merge into a single device.

It was all hype.

That’s why I was surprised to find such a compelling example of convergence in the second chapter of Tomi Ahonen’s new book.

Tomi lists three technologies that have been overwhelmed by mobile phones.

  • PDAs — In 2000, there were 10 million PDAs sold. Today, PDAs sell less than 10 million per year while smartphones sell more than 120 million annually.
  • Digital Cameras — In 2006, there were 450 million cameraphones sold compared to almost 90 million standalone cameras.
  • MP3 Players — “At the end of 2004, Apple’s iPod had held an 80% market share of the global MP3 player market.” In 2005, handset manufacturers got serious about adding music to their phones. By 2006, musicphone sales of 309 million dwarfed iPod sales of 46 million units.

In each case you have a promising new technology subsumed by mobile phones in just a very short time after technology is integrated into the mobile devices.

If ever there was a compelling example of convergence, this would be it.

But somehow, it feels less like convergence to me and more like the Borg. I mean, how perspective altering is it to realize that more cameraphones were sold in 2005 than the total number of standalone cameras ever made.

So what technology is next on the list to be assimilated?

  • GPS devices — I suspect they are already out numbered by phones with GPS
  • Digital TV Tuners — This is starting to happen in Asia. I wonder how long it will be before the number of phones that can receive digital TV outnumber the TVs that can.
  • Radio, Satellite Radio — Seems likely as well.

I’m sure there are others that I’m not thinking of at the moment. But whatever it is, I’m sure it will quickly find its way into the next generation of mobile devices.


gwalter said:

Good points Jason. Just 3-4 years ago, I carried a PDA, cell phone, and iPod. Not to mention my camera and a GPS device. I most wanted the merge of my PDA and phone, which is why I was an early user of a Windows mobile device. But when I bought the blackberry last year, I quickly learned that I don’t even need to take a laptop on most short trips. Cool!