Standalone gadgets like the GPS Navigators are going to go the way of the dodo. While device convergence has long been a theme of technology, the trend is set to accelerate in 2010. Almost all standalone devices in existence today are taking steps towards multi-functionality. Meanwhile, hardware and networking limitations are eroding and robust platforms are increasingly available.
Standalone or nearly standalone devices will see accelerating convergence in 2010. Obstacles to convergence are almost always based on hardware.
However, recent innovation in hardware shifts capabilities from products to features. Processors, cameras, and other tools get smaller and more accurate. Interface innovations (touch screens, accelerometers, gestural computing) make devices ever more versatile.
A significant portion of hardware innovation is currently centered in mobile devices, particularly smart phones. At the same time, Apple’s App Store, the Android Store, and the increasing capabilities of the mobile web have transformed smart phones into a platform for innovation.
The cost of entry to make a new piece of hardware is high, and supply chain optimization is tricky – but it’s simple to add a feature to any smart phone, if you can implement it through a website.
What’s more, it’s often cheap enough to make a profit while offering the feature or app for free – why Google is taking down Garmin and TomTom. This creates a self-perpetuating cycle of convergence around the smart phone: there are tons of apps and optimized websites for it, so the device is popular, which fuels demand for apps and websites instead of hardware, and so on.