More Thoughts on Convergence

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Recently, there have been two extremely well-written and thoughtful pieces about the topic of “Convergence”. One is by Steve Litchfield of http://www.allaboutsymbian.com/ fame, and the other by Rita El Khoury of (http://mobilernr.com/). Both are fixtures and well-respected commentators on all things Nokia and Symbian. Litchfield’s piece “When is a smartphone not a smartphone? When it’s a converged device!” argues that different definitions of “what is a smartphone” confuses, obfuscates, and “confuses the casual reader” and also “splits the smartphone world apart.” Rita El Khoury argues in her meticulously written piece “The Divergence of Converged Devices” that the promise of convergence in the mobile space hasn’t been realized, but rather with the proliferation of newer flashier mobile operating systems and more powerful hardware that “divergence” rather than greater convergence has been the result.

I’ve shared before that it was Litchfield’s passionate endorsement of the N82 that lead me to adopt my first Nokia S-60 smartphone. I may belong to that subset of “power-users” that tries to push the mobile experience on their mobile device as far as possible, but in many ways I consider myself a typical North American user. Both authors raised points that resonate with me.

Both articles are fueled by a profound unhappiness about the state of things. Let me explain. I read and reread Litchefield’s piece, and it is my opinion that one impetus for the article might be all the mud-slinging negative reviews of Nokia’s newest flagship the N8. It must have been frustrating for an evangelist for all things Symbian. Khoury’s piece seems to write from a different place of frustration. Why aren’t our converged devices more, well, converged? With all that we can do with our smartphones, there still isn’t one device that we can put in our pocket that does it all. There isn’t one device that handles email like Blackberry, or handles music and apps like Apple’s iPhone, or does multi-media capture like the N8, etc. Should this be the case, and since, this is a Nokia fan-site, is the N8 capable of filling this “one-phone to rule them all” void?

My own personal experience has been this: I’ve had to choose, and accept the shortcomings of a platform. When I was a Blackberry user, I loved the fact that email was secure, and that I could communicate with anyone instantly with Blackberry messenger. However, the Blackberry lacked quality gaming apps, and the camera, at least on my Bold, was abysmal. I gritted my teeth, and I bore it, but if you are a mobile tech aficionado like me, it became unbearable, and on a warm spring day last year, I went to AT&T, opened up a second line and got a Nokia S-60 phone to complement my Blackberry 9000. I became a two-phone user. But then, a few months later, reading about all the innovative apps being developed for the iPhone, I found myself inside an Apple store paying for an iPod Touch (almost caved and got an iPhone), and became a three-device carrying guy. You get the point.  Now, it seems to me that the first company to get every aspect of the mobile experience right without compromise will win the hearts and minds of consumers. Maybe.

Here in the United States, the iPhone is the most popular smartphone. But, we mobile geeks while deriding the platform as being for neophytes, probably have either an iPhone 4 or iPod Touch in pockets adjacent holding our Galaxy S phones, or E72s, or Blackberries.

I’ll close with the question, as it has relevance for Nokia fans, is Nokia with Meego capable of creating a device that can satisfy Litchfield’s definition of a converged device, while offering the mobile desktop experience of an iPhone, and Android phone? This is a nuanced question to be sure. For now, we mobile users will gravitate toward that platform that best meets our needs, and we’ll have to grit out teeth and bear the shortcomings of our respective platforms. Or, we can, as many of us do carry more than one device.

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