The Two Trajectories of Device Convergence

April 12th, 2010

The flap over Apple’s recent iPhone OS announcements has caused me to step back from the fray and I think from a distance some clarity has emerged.

I, like much of the world, see current phone and tablet devices as an evolution of the general purpose computer getting smaller and more focused. We project on them the same expectations of openness and freedom that we’ve come to expect from computers and laptops. Standardized interchangeable chargers and cables, replaceable batteries, users and developers have administrative control over the OS, development and distribution is completely within user and developer control. Connectivity and expansion are standardized and open.

Apple sees the iPad and iPhone as an evolution of the electronic telecom or entertainment device getting bigger and more general-purpose. They project on them the same expectations of vendor lockin and control that they’ve come to expect from mobile devices, audio players, and video games. Proprietary chargers and cables, no user-serviceable parts or batteries, users have no control over the OS, development and distribution is tightly controlled by the vendor. Connectivity and expansion are proprietary and controlled.

As the two fronts of this battle advance on each other, Apple is firing their salvos from their highly fortified appliance battlements below, while other players are approaching this space from the open skies above, bringing open general purpose computing to the personal device space.

It remains to be seen whether this is a battle that will vanquish one side or the other, or whether the two approaches can carve out similar but separate markets, but it’s clear that they are different approaches and that understanding is key when choosing which side you want to follow (or for that matter, lead, which is a possibility on one side of the equation and not the other).

One comment to “The Two Trajectories of Device Convergence”

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