Apple continues to set the bar higher with the release of the new iPad in March 2012. This is really an evolutionary step forward on the features and functionalities on what has been established as the defacto standard for tablets worldwide. By packing in more pixel density in it’s 9.7” display than ever thought possible, and catering to the same long battery life, Apple has once again created a device that is simply the best in class for portable consumption of the Internet, Media and Entertainment that consumers continue to covet!
The launch of the new iPad got me thinking as to what extraordinary devices consumers currently have access to – the ultimate slick all-in-one gadget that would have been a dream a couple of decades ago.
Not without reason are iPads and associated tablets all the rage these days in new Consumer Electronic Shows as they herald a new era in Post-PC Computing. While tablets are becoming increasingly commonplace, let us not forget that tablets really only got this popular less than two years ago when Apple released it’s iPad – an extension to the touch interface with the new paradigm brought about by the iPhone a few years earlier.
Finally, here was a device which was the embodiment of ‘Convergence’ in the true sense of the word – an amalgamation of hardware (CPU, display graphics, long battery, an outstanding display), software (a highly optimized OS, an application ecosystem supplying applications for just about everything) melded to a touch interface supporting an intuitive user interface, incorporation of new manufacturing technologies and materials thereby enhancing capabilities while on the move and introducing a level of resourcefulness previously unheard of. The iPad also brings about a ‘Service Convergence’ from the standpoint of Computing, Communications and Entertainment.
As tablets and smartphones have the ability to be “something for everybody”, it is becoming the ultimate all in one gadget (Swiss Army knife equivalent) for consumers. Go ahead, leave behind your camera, laptop, video camera, audio players, PVPs, gaming devices at home. Why? The below use cases highlight why?
How is this Service Convergence achieved? Marry Connectivity with a multifunctional device that provides timely contextual references along with an application ecosystem that serves consumers with anything they can think of. Then you meld this to a touch interface on a user friendly and intuitive UI that encourages interaction with the user. What you get is an end user experience that is highly refined, leading to a high degree of usage and reliability in one device in lieu of multiple gadgets that one used to carry around.
Paradigm changing products such as the iPad don’t happen that often. While the vision and concept may have been around in whole or in disparate pieces, it takes years if not decades before it is manifested into reality, as someone comes along and strings all the pieces of the puzzle together to make these delightful gadgets. Independent, game changing technologies develop on their own for decades before they reach a level of maturity needed to permeate everyday lives of consumers.
Let us take a look back at key developments over the decades before this convergence happened:
|1960s- Internet||What turned as an experimental project in ARPA in 1969 in order for researchers to communicate with each other exploded in the 90s with the arrival of html and Browsers to what it is today – a means to connect globally with anyone on any device.||Universal accessibility to a world of information increasingly available on a range of devices|
|1950s- Silicon||From the 50s, silicon based Semiconductor technologies have developed beyond the wildest imaginations of it’s pioneers. For the Information Age, it has been compared to what the steam engine did to the Industrial Revolution.||How much longer Moore’s law will hold good is to be seen. Moore’s law has held good so far with number of transistors doubling every 2 years in a given IC thereby permitting smaller devices to have unprecedented computing capabilities. Regardless of the law, transistors will continue to shrink while increasing computational capability.|
|1970s – Digital Media||As audio started becoming hi-fidelity and video much higher quality, the need for digitzation and compressions came into play for getting audio and video digital content across the Internet.||The posterchild of digital media is the MP3 audio format which has origins from the Fraunhoffer Institute from the 60s – researched and refined for over 3 decades before it became a reality in the 90s allowing end users to carry thousands of songs in their pocket!|
|1970 – 80s – User Interface & User Experience||XeroxPARC offered the earliest work on “Windows” – a visual and practical means for users to take computer usability to the next level. It was adopted by Apple and Microsoft and has become a part of our lives. Research at MIT Media Labs on future User Interface technologies such as Touch Sensitive User Interfaces from the 1980s have finally found it’s way in our day to day lives in the current Tablets in the marketplace.||From Windows to Touch to gestures, User Interfaces have come a long way to help consumers use and exploits PCs and tablets in a big way. More intuitive methods are being researched.|
Also, other advances in the areas of wired and wireless transmission technologies, broadband technologies, display technologies in the form of LCDs and LEDs, object oriented programming languages, metallurgical advances in the use of glass, metals etc.., location based technologies allowing one to navigate or locate users, manufacturing technologies that allow miniaturization and efficiencies in cost structures have all led to what is being referred to as True Convergence in this article. Each of these areas came about to solve a problem or need, have evolved over time and have contributed by amalgamating together in one tiny device to make it a true Swiss army knife – capable of so many things.
While end users will give little thought to what it has taken for all of these elements to work seamlessly, each of these building blocks have been in universities and R&D labs for decades, with engineers toiling away for the technologies to mature to a level that can be used in products. It is truly remarkable – if we go back just half a decade or a decade to see how consumer expectations have gone up in relation all the technologies that they have been exposed to. Just a decade and a half ago the following were envisioned (within the realm of cellphones and personal information managers like Palm Pilots) but were far from being the norm:
- Internet on mobile devices
- Color displays
- Large displays
- Sub 10mm thick devices
- Devices which play audio and video
- Devices which can stream content
- Devices which can take pictures and record video
In the 1960s Arthur C. Clarke predicted the future with amazing vision. His 1968 novel which got converted to the classic movie – 2001: A Space Odyssey, has reference to usage of what is today amazingly similar to the iPads, AI robots and missions to Jupiter was commonplace. While the iPads finally made it in 2010 (2 years after Clarke died), man has still to make it to Jupiter!
To drive home the point as to how long it takes some of these technologies to reach the level of maturity when consumers think nothing of it, Nicholas Negroponte made this speech in 1984 about various innovations for the future including the Touch Interface. It is amazing to think of this foresight that they have had now that we see these things as commonplace on devices such as Smartphones and Tablets. Have a look.
The point of all of these thoughts is this:
- Technology in key areas as mentioned in above table have taken decades to reach where it is. However, the progress and pace of what these technologies have achieved may have only been a dream to even it’s founders and pioneers in that field
- The coming together decades for all of these seems to have been the 1990s and the 2000s. While it took decades to manifest, it has been rapid to progress after the initial products
- It is possible that these manifestation cycles can get shortened in the future due to the sheer amount of wizardry that is at the disposal of researchers and scientists
- What consumers would not have dreamed of a few years ago, will be/is taken for granted within a few years of being introduced into their lives
- Convergence as a theme will find it’s ways into all aspects of our lives – amalgamating hardware, software, presence, media and relevant information
With so much possible on devices such as the new iPad and a host of Android tablets, what will these devices morph into in the coming decade and beyond? What other technological elements will creep into gadgetry to make these current tablet and smartphone devices look pedestrian in it’s capabilities in a few years? While the basic building blocks in these converged devices would remain – internet, media, hardware – the way it is used and exploited would vary as innovations and imagination make the sky the limit!
Here is a shot at what is to come:
- Unlimited battery life – anything portable needs battery power. Whether it is fuel cells or solar or some new technology that is yet to be dreamt of, this will again change the paradigm with respect to user expectations.
- Newer forms of User Interfaces – Siri has scratched the surface of what a Voice based AI assistant can do. Evolution of Voice – whether it is Recognition, transliteration or translation can herald a new wave of how devices get used in the future. Whether it is Voice or gestures or something totally new, this is an area that again has paradigm changing possibilities.
- Display – As displays keep evolving into more brilliant, brighter, thinner there is also the aspect of projecting information onto anything and using and manipulating it.
- Everything is finally interconnected – a true M2M scenario where all aspects of our life are connected digitally and controlled from the palm of our hand – from diagnostics to operations to status.
- More of everything – Speed, memory, storage, interconnectivity all leading to the possibility of remote controlling a number of aspects of our lives.
- Future Gadgetry - Everything will be interconnected, nano machines will reach the smallest crevices inside a human body, machines will self learn and self heal. With advances in so many areas, gadgetry will still continued to be valued for simplicity and ease of use.
The future is going to be exciting indeed! What cutting edge technologies is your company working on and how will it permeate into our lives?
How can Convergence Catalyst help with your journey?
Talk to us – whether to have a long term insight or short term operational clarity, we can help.