Wednesday, January 25, 2006

The 2006 Gadget Parade: A New Era of Convergence and Convenience

CIO has an lengthy feature article from Knowledge@Wharton that asks Wharton academics and industry analysts their thoughts on the "long-anticipated era of convergence in consumer technology products."

Tim Bajarin at Creative Strategies noted the rise of the Internet is driving a new era in electronics in which he said, "everything is connected. Devices are connected to the Internet or to each other via a home network. We have been talking about convergence for I don't know how many years, but without us realizing it, the thing that's bringing convergence about is connectivity."

There are three major screens in consumers' digital lives: the PC, the TV and the cell phone and a "fourth screen, the iPod or another portable media player, is also emerging." Bajarin said, "When you start thinking about these three screens, you have to start thinking about consumer electronics as part of a larger digital ecosystem."

Michael Gartenberg at JupiterResearch in New York commented that "video — everything from cell phones to high-definition TVs to 102-inch plasma screens — dominated" CES. He said, "Video was certainly the buzzword. There seems to be more and more interest in the video space in 2006 as well as more and more growth in the music space, with lots of people conspiring on how they can wring market share from Apple."

Gartenberg added that "As more and more consumer electronics technology goes digital, that brings a host of new players into this space." He did warn that these "companies all have their own business agendas and technology formats that could lead to a new period of confusion for consumers and slow adoption of new products." He said, "Instead of the same seamless flow of content moving from device to device, it will lead to a lot of consumer frustration," possibly leading "consumers to buy all their technology from a single source, which might be an advantage for Apple."

Bajarin thinks "consumers are near the mid-point of what will be a 50-year technology journey from analog devices to digital. The journey began in 1980 with the PC. For the first 25 years, technological development was aimed at the workplace." he said, "The next 25 years will be about bringing digital technology to the masses." From the PC to the living room to mobile devices, Bajarin concluded, "Now, in the next 25 years, we will be working out the kinks. We will go through our ups and downs, but in reality we lived in an analog world for centuries. The fact that we are taking the planet digital in 50 years is actually pretty amazing."