One Device or Many?

HBS Working Knowledge writes:

As makers of everything engage in an all-out features war to cram the most services, accessories, and functions into a single product, the real question for many is this: Does the consumer really want an all-in-one digital device?

A panel of industry players moderated by Harvard Business School professor Alan MacCormack took on the question of future “form factors” at the 2005 Cyberposium conference at HBS on January 29th. The general consensus: It’s more important for users to be able to easily move digital information from one device to another than to have a single gizmo that is both a car wax and dessert topping.

“In our lifetime we will not see a single device that will represent all devices for everything we do,” said Rich Miner, vice president of Advanced Service Delivery for London-based telecom service provider Orange Services, U.S.

The barriers include human physiology (typing is still difficult on a small keyboard), technology (battery life for a fully converged device might be in minutes, not hours), and human preference (would the iPod be as popular if it looked like a cell phone?).

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