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Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Progressive Convergence: My “Personal Device”

Author: Mark Dixon
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
3:27 pm

Personal Device: ” … intended to convey a sense of the aspirations or character of the bearer.”

In a conversation with a telco executive recently, he remarked that their company had stopped referring to “smart phones,” but rather favored the term “personal devices.”

His comments triggered some fun memories. I thought of the time way back in 1978 when I sat down with a colleague and sketched out a concept for a hand held electronic notebook and calendar device. Surely, we thought, we could add calendar and note taking functions to electronic calculators to make something really useful. We each signed the pages of our engineering notebook and vowed we would become millionaires and change the world. But we were just naive, inexperienced junior engineers who had no idea about how to bring such a thing to market. Our little idea made it no further than the pages of our notebook and the shadows of our dreams.

Fast forward to the Internet boom in the late 1990’s. I was shuttling around the world every week with my colleagues at Oracle, carrying three personal devices – a cell phone, a pager and a Palm Pilot. I would frequently remark that these three indespensible gadgets should be combined into a single device.

Three years ago, when I bought my first Treo, Progressive Convergence became reality for me. My personal device that took the place of three became an indespensible part of my Identity – a literal extension of my persona.

But now? I’m back to carrying three personal devices – my Treo, my iPod and my Magellan GPS navigator (split personality, you ask?). I have still not found the best functions of each device in a single unit. However, the phenomena of Progressive Convergence will undoubtedly quickly bring the best merits of all these functions together in a single device.

So, what do I really want in a personal device? I’m not sure I really know, because someone will undoubtedly offer up something I hadn’t thought of. But here are some ideas:

  • It must be small but usable – like the Treo or iPhone, but thinner, fitting compfortably in the palm of my hand.
  • It must have a wide variety of interoperable, easy to use, highly personalized functionality – telephony, messaging, web access, video, music, navigation, to-do lists (does iPhone have that yet?), payment services, note taking, audio transcription, still/motion camera, plus more to come, I’m sure.
  • It should be dockable into the user interface of choice: large screen/keyboard in my office, TV in my living room, driver/navigator control in my car, keyboard/screen in the airplane or taxi, medium sized electronic tablet for notetaking … the concept is to bring the brains to the UI, not the other way around.
  • The device needs fast processing power, large local storage, fast network bandwidth and immense, rapidly accessible network storage.
  • Why not a super thin client with all the intelligence and storage in the data center? Because I still like to be in places on this old world where cell towers are yet to be a gleam in someone’s eye, where I am alone with my thoughts and my little Personal Device.

The crazy thing about this? I am sure that I have grossly underestimated what my personal device will be like in 10 or 20 years. I’m still amazed when I think about what the last 20 years has provided. I can’t wait!

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