Converged Mobile Devices

Kevin Werbach writes in an article entitled “The Triumph of Good Enough”:

Subtle improvements can have huge consequences. The same is true when it comes to functionality. A torrent of incremental advances are now producing converged devices that are “good enough” at each of their primary functions. This will have significant consequences for both device manufacturers and operators.

In the mobile handset world, we’re already at the point where a camera is a standard element of new phones. Analysts predict 100 million cameraphones will be sold next year. Unless privacy fears create a market for camera-less phones, handsets without that functionality will soon become anachronisms. Meanwhile, Motorola’s latest fully integrated phone module for hardware manufacturers measures 16 by 20 by 1.4 millimeters. That’s about the size of a US nickel. We’ll see phone functionality popping up in handheld gaming devices, portable music players, and other places that used to be completely different markets. When converged devices were either hulkingly large or pitifully incompetent at some of their functions, they were the domain of gadget freaks and early adopters. As the “good enough” threshold is passed, they will become the baseline standard.

The rise of converged devices will have a huge impact on operators. More functionality in devices at the edge of the network makes it harder to monetize the network in the middle.

In the new world, the money will be in applications on the edge devices, hardware sales, and of all things, dumb connectivity. The first wireless operator to execute the Dell/Wal-Mart model — being the efficient commodity provider, with a great brand — will make a killing. (Partly because they will kill their competitors.) Not that this is an easy task. Legacy billing systems and legacy culture are huge hurdles to overcome, and the ideas of “owning the customer” and “delivering value-added services” are deeply embedded in operator DNA.

The hard truth is that devices are evolving faster than networks. Wide-area wireless connectivity will be just another function that a “good enough” converged mobile device provides, albeit an important one. Put together a series of little things, and that’s the inevitable result.

Published by

Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.