Scanorama column: Convergence is a four-letter word

Mobile phone companies – handset manufacturers, operators and others – have been preaching about convergence for years, almost a decade now. They tell us that a mobile phone is all we need in the future because — everything will be in it.

What do you need, they ask. Games? We put them in the phone. Music players? In there. Camera? Gotcha. Radio? Of course. GPS? You just gotta know where you are.

A friend of mine said he wanted a phone that was “like the Swiss Army knife, with everything on it.”

I’m not so sure.

When was the last time you used your Swiss Army knife? Wasn’t the actual knife a bit feeble? And the cork screw only works with the tiny bottles you get in a hotel room.

I can understand why it seems like a great idea to cram everything into one package. It definitely “adds value” to the “brand proposition,” making it more attractive. If you liked our phone, you’re going to love our camera phone, goes the rationale.

Only, I don’t think that way, and I am not alone.

I like having my 60-gigabyte iPod (and love it for holding my entire music collection with 20 gigs to spare). I take it with me everywhere I go. I can’t wait to miss a bus or a subway train, and get those ten extra minutes to listen to a podcast.

I also think my Nokia E61 is a miracle. The interface, the simplicity of the synchronization, my emails.

The iPod goes into the left pocket, the E61 into the right one, and that’s just the way it is. (Now, I do have one of those BluEyes featured here as well, and it’s great, because I don’t need to look at the phone when I use it for just talking).

If I really need to surf the net on the road, I’ll use the phone as a modem and turn on my laptop.
All in all, there are very few hit products that manage to combine one or two ideas into one. The TV/VCR didn’t really hit the big time, the watch/calculator had its 15 minutes, not more, and only Seinfeld’s Kramer would come up with the idea of having ketchup and mustard in the same bottle.

The only successful combo device I can think of right now is the amphibious Lotus Esprit that James Bond had in The Spy Who Loved Me. That would be perfect for all those times you just want to drive your car into the water and keep on going.

If I need to carry iPod, phone and laptop with me, so be it. I’d rather have three cool gadgets instead of just one, anyway.

How does that make you feel?