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Big Bang of Convergence 430

Posted by michael
from the whimper-whimper dept.
joNDoty writes "Businessweek is running a story predicting 'This is going to be the most disruptive period in the past 50 years." The period they are talking about is the digital age of convergence, where every software/hardware manufacturer is racing to link cell phones, tvs and computers into universal devices 'that can't be categorized as tech or consumer electronics.' 'The result is a Big Bang of convergence, and it's likely to produce the biggest explosion of innovation since the dawn of the Internet.' Overrated? Perhaps, but +1 insightful nonetheless." Sure, your fridge will tell you you need milk, but convergence is not necessarily a good thing.
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Big Bang of Convergence

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  • by yoey (247125) * on Tuesday June 15, 2004 @02:20PM (#9433333) Journal
    I don't know about this "convergence" thing. I have 5 remote controls for 5 different products, and I'll be damned if I can find a way to successfully use just for all!
    • by mekkab (133181) on Tuesday June 15, 2004 @02:23PM (#9433382) Homepage Journal
      Sorry- I've only got one- SONY's RM-VL900 learns with the best of 'em.
      • I love my VL900s (I have one for the bedroom and one for the living room). All of the LCD-screen monstrosities don't have the comfortable form factor that the VL900 does, and it's capacity to learn other remotes and macros are invaluable.
      • by swordboy (472941) on Tuesday June 15, 2004 @02:49PM (#9433779) Journal
        Sorry- I've only got one- SONY's RM-VL900 learns with the best of 'em.

        This is not the whole story.

        I, too, have this remote control and, while it does an adequate job of controlling everything, it does not provide for a "wife proof" interface. To be fair, I should replace "wife proof" with "non-techie proof" or something like that - but I won't.

        For example, if I want to watch a DVD, then I have to press:

        - TV, power (TV powers on)
        - DVD, power (DVD powers on)
        - AMP, 8 (which flips the receiver to the DVD input)

        But WAIT! The instructions are different if the TV is already on. The complexity is MIND boggling. I will give ALL OF MY MONEY to someone who can fix the problem. And before everyone suggests CURRENT PRODUCTS, don't - because I've tried them all.
        • Sorry to burst your bubble, but my non-techie wife (a LAWYER, for crying out loud!) has come to grips with the VL-900. Infact, she can even "reverse engineer" her way out if in the wrong "mode."

          Yes this took years to accomplish.
        • by tmhsiao (47750) on Tuesday June 15, 2004 @03:03PM (#9433952) Homepage Journal
          According to the manual, you can set the DVD button to run that entire sequence of codes if you press and hold the DVD button for a few seconds, or as indicated, just the DVD -> AMP steps.

          If you read manuals, that is.
          • According to the manual, you can set the DVD button to run that entire sequence
            His problem is that the sequence changes if you were listening to music because your amp was already on, for example.

            Maybe now you started realizing that you didn't answer the problem. If you re-read the post you replied to, that is.
        • How I solved the component switching problem:
          (I use my AV receiver to do all my audio and video switching. It sounds like you do the same.)
          Set up the little #1 button on the top as my 'power all components on' button. Then I learn my AV receiver's 'switch to DVD' buttons to the VL900's 'display' button on the DVD component. (repeat this step for each component, Cable, VCR, CD, etc.) When the wife wants to watch the DVD, just hit the big DVD button on the top and then click 'display' to make it 'come on t
        • by CreatureComfort (741652) * on Tuesday June 15, 2004 @03:29PM (#9434272)

          Easy solution...

          Get a better, upgraded wife.

        • by Black Perl (12686) on Tuesday June 15, 2004 @03:32PM (#9434320)
          And before everyone suggests CURRENT PRODUCTS, don't - because I've tried them all.

          Have you really tried the computer-programmable ones? The philips pronto series (all of 'em) support downloaded IR codes. There are libraries of discrete codes [remotecentral.com] (ie. non toggle, ON means ON) for just about every manufacturer you can think of.

          Personally, I use the Pronto Neo. [overstock.com] I like it for many reasons. A fully programmable touchscreen--I created custom graphics for it. I like that it has a decent amount of hard buttons too. Every button (both hard and virtual) can send IR codes, navigate/change "screens", start timers, and remote-specific things (turn on/off the backlight), or have a macro that does many or all of the above. I downloaded discrete codes for all my stuff. The System Off button turns everything off, period.

          My wife loves it. She is greeted by simple icons. If she wants to watch TV, she touches the TV picture and then the TV, cable box, and receiver turn on, and she sees the network logos for her favorite channels. There are tabs for other channel logos (including a Kids tab that my kids use), and a tab that leads to a number pad for direct channel input.

          If she wants to watch a DVD, it's similar. Push the DVD logo, push the "play" button. Which, by the way, slowly dims the lights down to 10% thanks to this [homeautomationnet.com] and IR codes that I downloaded for it. The pause button ramps the lights up to 50% (for bathroom breaks).

          Another little trick, I use the above IR-to-X10 gateway to turn on my PS/2 when someone touches the Game icon, thanks to an appliance module [homeautomationnet.com]. Otherwise, it would be a pain becuase the PS/2 has a hard power switch on the back, and I have it mounted in a built-in cabinet with no room to reach behind it.

          I also have a Music tab, which has buttons labeled "Jazz", "Ambient", etc. so you can turn on music without having to know what digital cable channel they're on. And, I don't even have to open the cabinets to turn all this stuff on or off, thanks to an IR repeater I have tucked in the surrounding bookshelves.

          The complexity is MIND boggling. I will give ALL OF MY MONEY to someone who can fix the problem.

          My 6-year old can fully operate my setup. If there's something specific you'd want to do with your setup, let me know and I'll tell you how to do it with the Pronto Neo (or the more expensive Prontos). No need to give me all your money.

          I can provide screen shots of my setup if you want.
      • I have to jump in here. I have a VL900 and love it. It is the perfect remote. Learning, with custom labels, but the buttons are actual buttons and not a touch screen. I had a RCA touchscreen remote, but I couldn't stand the lack of tactile feedback when hitting buttons.
    • by tha_mink (518151) on Tuesday June 15, 2004 @02:24PM (#9433394)
      Convergence though, kinda sweet. You can turn on your heated driveway from the comfort of your toilet remote control. That, my friend, is progress.
    • by lukewarmfusion (726141) on Tuesday June 15, 2004 @02:27PM (#9433452) Homepage Journal
      There are a lot of products intended to deal with your abundance of remotes. Of course, many of them are more difficult to use than it's worth, and some of them cost hundreds of dollars.

      Which leads me to my main point - convergence of devices that I use on a regular basis will be a bad idea.

      I want a small phone (I keep it with me everywhere). I want a big computer screen and a keyboard that's big enough to type fast on. I want a PDA that can integrate with my other computers, but allows me to use the stylus. I want a digital camera that I can take decent photos with for prints or posting on the web.

      Am I asking too much? Look at all the products out there designed to address exactly what I listed above, and not only are they way more expensive than I would ever pay.... but they fail to do any of the things I described, at least to the extent that I want them there.

      Simplicity = usability
    • I don't know about this "convergence" thing. I have 5 remote controls for 5 different products, and I'll be damned if I can find a way to successfully use just for all!

      That's a good example of how the hype over convergence is jumping the gun. We can't even solve the remote control problem. Everyone has a solution, but each solution brings with it more problems.

      Over the next few years, companies will brag about convergence for stockholder support. But under the covers they will just be cramming two unr
    • Thats pretty much the point--It sucks that we have to have 100 different devices whose functionality overlaps. Think we'd all like to see that number pared down.

      What they don't mention is that some kind of serious standards are going to have to be put in place for this convergence to get off the ground. I'm tired of seeing multiple Cell Towers next to each other because the damn companies can't agree on a standard.
  • This sounds about as vague as the dot-com boom. I don't believe it.
    • by mdrejhon (203654) * on Tuesday June 15, 2004 @02:46PM (#9433734) Homepage
      Actually, convergence is happening all over the place. Just that we don't really know where we're converging to.
      Videogame consoles are nowadays video and music players too, with the XBox and PlayStation2.

      (1980's guy: How the hell do I insert Betamax tapes into my Atari!?)

      Cellphones now double as PDA and cameras too.
      (1980's guy: PDA? Public Displays of Affection and voyeurism with a cellphone? You're crazy.)

      Some printers are now copiers, scanners and faxes too.
      (1980's guy: Wow, my own Xerox! Where can I get one of these for the price of my Commodore dot matrix?)

      Most DVD video players are now CD/VCD/MP3 players too.
      (1980's guy: DVD? MP3? Oh, a disc format? Is that like the 12 inch LaserDisc?)

      Our cable TV is also an Internet conection (and even phone line too).
      (1980's guy: What's an Internet? And tell me, how the hell is phone over cable possible?)

      Cable and satellite TV boxes that also double as 100 hour tapeless recorders (PVR's).
      (1980's guy: A VCR that can record 100 hours with no videotape? You're kidding.)
      You name it, various kinds of convergence is happening today, all over the place. Who knows what's gonna happen next.
      • "Videogame consoles are nowadays video and music players too, with the XBox and PlayStation2."

        Yes, they both play DVDs and CDs, but I hardly know anybody who use them that way because the value just isn't there, at least in this generation. The DVD playback kits for Xbox and PS2 cost $30. You get a remote control, infrared dongle, and the DVD decoder. Back when DVD players cost $200-300 it may have been worth it, but now you can get a cheap DVD player for $40, maybe even $30. Price points as much as featur
  • I agree. (Score:5, Funny)

    by LilGuy (150110) on Tuesday June 15, 2004 @02:21PM (#9433349)
    When your toaster tells you that you've got 2 potential e-harmony dates, and your fridge won't shut up about your lousy tv dinner diet, it will be time to move to the mountains.
  • Linking (Score:4, Funny)

    by isd_glory (787646) on Tuesday June 15, 2004 @02:21PM (#9433351)
    Linking link cell phones, tvs and computers would be nice... if they could link it with a frickin' flying car already
  • by Wesley Felter (138342) <wesley@felter.org> on Tuesday June 15, 2004 @02:21PM (#9433357) Homepage
    I fear the 3l33t snax0rz [aarnet.edu.au].
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 15, 2004 @02:22PM (#9433369)
    Same as any other boom. Huge leaps, then the typical stagnation. We are definitely at the outset of the bread and circuses phase for the wired empire. The shine will wear off the need for the newest of the new when the technology plateaus, and all you have are packaging updates. I can see this coming to a close in far fewer than 50 years. It's a shame that the boom wasn't in connecting people who have no connectivity to anything.
  • My thoughts. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Cow007 (735705) on Tuesday June 15, 2004 @02:22PM (#9433373) Journal
    I think often devices that try to do many things succed in doing many things less well than specialized devices. Not only are we going to see a lot of innovation but we are going to see a lot of failed products in the years to come.
    • Re:My thoughts. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Moofie (22272) <lee&ringofsaturn,com> on Tuesday June 15, 2004 @02:31PM (#9433517) Homepage
      Of course, you're typing your missive on the ultimate counterpoint to your argument.

      Hard to imagine a more general purpose tool than a PC.
    • Re:My thoughts. (Score:3, Insightful)

      by gunnk (463227)
      That's true, but I'll often trade "the best" for "gets the job done" if it means I can carry around fewer gadgets. I used to have a watch. I don't bother -- the time is on my cellphone. Okay, I have to pull it out of my pocket, so it doesn't tell time as well as a watch in that regard. Then again, my cell phone time is always correct since it gets the time from my carrier.

      Likewise, I used to carry a PDA. Kept me organized. Phone numbers? Now those are in my cell phone. Schedule? In my phone. Alar
    • Re:My thoughts. (Score:3, Interesting)

      by iabervon (1971)
      I think that the thing that makes convergance possible when it actually happens will be fact that half of your devices "process digitial information and use a peripheral" and the other half "transfer digital information".

      It won't be long before the only difference between an answering machine and a PVR is what the connectors are (optionally send recorded data, record data, replay data). It also won't be long before the connectors are the same, too (802.11 or ethernet, TCP/IP).

      The products which succeed wi
  • by Nyder (754090) on Tuesday June 15, 2004 @02:23PM (#9433374) Journal
    They been saying this, what, 3 years now? Sure it is.
  • bah (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sulli (195030) * on Tuesday June 15, 2004 @02:23PM (#9433377) Journal
    Slow news week for BusinessWeek? "Convergence" has been the "most disruptive EVAR" wave of the future for decades now. It's not like anything has fundamentally changed and everyone wants one device to do everything now that they didn't want before. Who really needs a microwave that surfs the internet, or a television with Caller ID?!

    Maybe it's like the metric system, and soccer in America*. It's the wave of the future, and always will be.

    * maybe not. US Soccer is #8 in the world now, ahead of Germany!

    • Re:bah (Score:5, Funny)

      by Derkec (463377) on Tuesday June 15, 2004 @02:28PM (#9433474)
      Sorry, but as of Jun 4th, we're 9th in the world. A single point behind Germany. That's one of the things that pisses the world off about us. Even when we don't care about something (like soccer) we're still pretty damn good at it.
      • Re:bah (Score:3, Insightful)

        by dustmite (667870)

        Even when we don't care about something (like soccer) we're still pretty damn good at it.

        That has a lot to do with firstly sheer size (300,000,000 people, about the third most populous country in the world, with more than three times the population of e.g. Germany) and secondly, plenty of resources (e.g. widespread access to equipment and facilities - virtually anyone interested in a sport will with a little effort be able to find somewhere to play, equipment to play with, people to practice against, and

    • by Grrr (16449)
      Yep, "consider the source" is particularly relevant here. Perhaps some big advertiser of theirs will be flogging the word "convergence" next week, or next month - and being a good little reliable, objective, alpha-dog information source that they are...

      When the moon is in the seventh house
      and Jupiter aligns with Mars...


      "The age of con-verg-i-ance!"

      Hmmm...

      <grrr>
  • by enrico_suave (179651) on Tuesday June 15, 2004 @02:23PM (#9433387) Homepage
    just have to roll up my sleeves and do it myself, because otherwise my "converged" media will be a DRM'd crippled mess.

    e.
    • otherwise my "converged" media will be a DRM'd crippled mess

      [cynical] There's no otherwise about it. Adding DRM to your toaster is what this is all about. There will absolutely not be any innovation involved. Any innovative uses of (or the mere existence of) devices that universally talk to each other will be killed with prejudice by a storm of lawsuits. [/cynical]

      just have to roll up my sleeves and do it myself

      [extra-cynical] No, I'm afraid that will be illegal too. [/extra-cynical]

      • by lenski (96498)
        Convergence is OK, it's cool and all. But so far as I've been able to tell, convergence has resulted mostly in limits on the availability of drivers for my preferred operating environment. Between the RIAA-controlled audio monopoly, the MPAA-controlled moving visual arts monopoly and Microsoft's desire to control computing has resulted only in proposed (or real) restrictions on how I get to setup and use my workstation.

        Now a computer is a "media theft acceleration device", primarily useful (as far as the

  • by norculf (146473) on Tuesday June 15, 2004 @02:24PM (#9433403) Journal
    I still have my ::CueCat.
  • Viriiii (Score:3, Funny)

    by Kelt (85402) <steve@c a s a d a v i l a . net> on Tuesday June 15, 2004 @02:24PM (#9433404)
    I want to see the first person selling Anti-Virus for a refridgerator or reciever.

    I should go into business selling whole-home anti-virus licenses. Good for 10 communicating devices per license. Renewable monthly.

    -Kelt
    • Re:Viriiii (Score:3, Funny)

      by Ctrl-Z (28806)
      I want to see the first person selling Anti-Virus for a refridgerator or reciever.

      I would be happy with antibacteria for the fridge. I'd never have to worry about those "mystery" packages ever again.
  • Picture slackjawed marketers and capitalist techno-theives everywhere with looks of utter bliss drooling and murmuring "convergence..." as they picture the obscene profits yet to come when your toaster is loaded with embedded Longhorn so that you can listen to mp3s on it aquired wirelessly from your refrigerator/render-farm.

    Think Infinite Jest.
  • FOOLS! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Griim (8798) on Tuesday June 15, 2004 @02:24PM (#9433408) Homepage
    Doesn't anyone remember what happened last time when the Cylons attacked, and all of our computer systems were linked together?
  • That's funny, because like, just 2 days ago I could've sworn that there was an article about the death of PDA's.

    I can't wait for my refrigerator to have a toaster, speakerphone, tv, and real doll embedded in the doors.

    Who pays these people to make blanket statements like this. What do I have to do to get a job like that? I can get a Harvard Diploma online for $10, kk?
  • by the_rajah (749499) * on Tuesday June 15, 2004 @02:25PM (#9433414) Homepage
    If I want a phone, I just want a phone that is reliable and easy to use. Not loaded with so many gadgets that I have trouble using it for the intended main function.

    We just put a replacement radio in my wife's car, a '93, and instead of knobs and a few large buttons there are these tiny little buttons that I can't read the labels for without a magnifying glass. WTF is that? Certainly, it's far from user friendly. So instead of just reaching over to change the station, or even to turn the danged thing off, by simply turning a reasonable size knob, I have to keep punching tiny buttons until it does what I want. Yeah, I eventually am learning which is which, but that's not my point. And you think talking on a cell phone is distracting... HA!

    IMHO too much convergence is likely to be too much of a possible good thing.

    Make a product that does its intended main function and does it well.
    If I want the best knife or the best scissors, I don't get a Swiss Army knife.

    "Do the Right Thing. It will gratify some people and astound the rest." - Mark Twain
    • Alot of those car stereos are starting to come with remotes to control everyhting now. Having worked in the business for quite some time I have seen the progression from the small buttons, then to a few offering remotes to almost all offering remotes. The latest craze? Your in-dash stereo has built in touchscreen features to control volume, your menu and other controls and even some that offer full motion video. It should only be a matter of time before your cell phone gets activated with it, no matter
    • Make a product that does its intended main function and does it well.

      If I want the best knife or the best scissors, I don't get a Swiss Army knife.
      When I want a good enough knife or a good enough pair of scissors or a decent screwdriver or a not bad pair of pliers and I'm far from my toolbox, I pull out my Leatherman Wave.

      There are well designed multi-function devices and poorly designed multi-function devices. That doesn't mean the entire concept is silly. (Or smart.)
    • Get them to read this [google.com]
    • Sounds like the radio thing is your own fault for buying a device which doesn't meet you're ergonomic needs. It's not like the stereo is an essential part of the car that you need to rush out and replace with the first thing you see. Shop around and find one that is in your budget and has the interface you're looking for... they all have the same features now, go for style and functionality.
  • Sometimes you people need to unplug.
  • i believe it (Score:2, Insightful)

    everybody these days wants a cell phone - fax machine - dot matrix printer that will make them a frappachino (sp?). sure, there are people who recognize that having a single point of failure sucks. (oh, no, your battery died. no more frappachino or cell phone or dot matrix printing until you can plug the sucker back in.) but there are a lot more who don't want to carry the fax, the cell phone, and the frappachino-maker.

    this won't go corporate, because enough people at major companies will realize the w

  • by 192939495969798999 (58312) <<info> <at> <devinmoore.com>> on Tuesday June 15, 2004 @02:25PM (#9433427) Homepage Journal
    I imagine that this "big bang" will conclude with the controlling company(ies) charging money for practically every type of content, since they'll have a service and device for everything.
  • Everybody wants the Dick Tracy wristwatch that does everything. And as we know, the technology to link all these wonderful services exists now. The problem is licensing. No company wants to give up their piece of the pie, or surrender their turf to another company when there's money to be made. Stockholders wouldn't stand for it. Unles one firm can muscle the others into giving up their license, or reducing their fee, it won't happen.....Microsoft?....Anyone?
  • Synapse? (Score:5, Funny)

    by SphericalCrusher (739397) on Tuesday June 15, 2004 @02:26PM (#9433430) Homepage Journal
    It's already been created! Just go download the source code from skullbocks.com!
  • No, thanks (Score:5, Funny)

    by Rick the Red (307103) <Rick.The.Red@CUR ... minus physicist> on Tuesday June 15, 2004 @02:26PM (#9433433) Journal
    I don't need my refridgerator telling me that I need milk -- I can see for myself when I use the milk. And the last thing I need is my refridgerator telling Safeway.com that I need milk and scheduling a delivery when I'm on vacation.

    My VCR watches TV for me when I'm not there, my oven can cook dinner for me when I'm not there, and my checking account can pay bills automatically if I'm not there. With all this convergence, will my possessions need me anymore?

    • With all this convergence, will my possessions need me anymore?

      ...best quote of the day

    • Businesses seem to be trying to bind their customers by coercion rather than to trust customers to choose their products willingly. Music, movie, and software businesses seem to rely more on dictating customer desires than on fulfilling them.

      Convergence could be a buzzword for businesses coordinating with each other on products; the coordination allows them to get what they want from their customers (money, information) while at the same time using the power that their cooperation gives them to ignore what
  • Too 'low-tech' (Score:5, Interesting)

    by rixstep (611236) on Tuesday June 15, 2004 @02:26PM (#9433440) Homepage
    Sure, your fridge will tell you you need milk

    This is way too low-tech.

    What your fridge should tell you is:

    'Hey dude, I know you're thinking of buying milk today, but I just read an article online about a bad shipment of milk to stores in this area, so I'd hold off a day or two until there's more details. I'll tell you when it's safe again, OK?

    'Oh - and of course I tested the milk you still have inside me, and that's OK to drink. Just don't buy any more until I say so.'

    THAT is hi-tech. That is convergence.
    • You're right. And one further step would be if the fridge said, "You're way too fat now, bud. Have you considered switching to skim milk, or perhaps a soy product?". Even better, "You'll gain 1.6 pounds if you eat the ice cream in the freezer. Check out the apples over on the counter."
    • When the shipments become safe, it should make an order for some more and have it delivered when I get home. Oh.. and it should also make sure to order more milk as it checks against the sell before date.
    • Re:Too 'low-tech' (Score:5, Insightful)

      by rewt66 (738525) on Tuesday June 15, 2004 @02:38PM (#9433626)
      Right. The real problem is thinking up things for these "converging" devices to do that customers actually care about in the real world.

      And that's hard. It's a lot harder than creating a new buzzword. It's even harder than building a product that connects to other products.

  • by ThousandStars (556222) on Tuesday June 15, 2004 @02:27PM (#9433457) Homepage
    I've been reading about "convergence" for as long as I've been cognizant of computers, and I don't buy it. Promises of mythical devices to link all aspects of digital life end up empty. Aside from the technological problems of making these devices work together, I think there is a bigger problem in that specialized devices for specific applications generally work better than a generalized device.

    For example, I prefer using a desktop for real work like long sessions of typing or video editing. The larger screen real estate, better price and more power mean that I'm better off with a desktop; and I think most people feel that way. Likewise, I don't want to use that monitor as a TV because it's too small; the hard drive in that computer is too small to store uncompressed DVDs, which are better left on desk to be played in the large-screen TV upstairs. I want a portable device to play music, and the key factor for that device is size, followed closely by battery life and ease-of-use -- and such a device, so useful for music, would be worthless for movies.

    My point is that convergence isn't here today, and I doubt it will be in the near future. The hurdles may eventually be overcome, but I suspect convergence might be like flying cars or cheap, easy nuclear power: perpetually five or ten years down the line.

  • by HighOrbit (631451) on Tuesday June 15, 2004 @02:30PM (#9433498)
    "Your Bagle is ready. Would you like to see an add about Philly Cream Cheese?"
  • by GillBates0 (664202) on Tuesday June 15, 2004 @02:31PM (#9433511) Homepage Journal
    A microprocessor is general enough to perform a variety of operations. It provides this functionality by providing a flexible set of basic operations called it's instruction set.

    Given such a generalized processor, we do away with the need to manufacture dedicated electronic hardware - and provide the functionality in specialized software which instructs the general-purpose microprocessor to perform a specific task. This is cheaper since software is easily reproduced/copied at a minimal cost.

    A capable generic microprocessor can perform the functions of most electronic devices (calculations, DSP, gaming device, prototyping etc) as long as software/peripherals is available for it. No wonder then that we're seeing electronic companies jumping on the idea of writing firm/software for generic microprocessors in an effort to expand their range of products at reduce costs.

    I predict that in a few years, we will have a single cheap generic microprocessor which will be found in most (or all) consumer electronic devices. Electronic companies will be largely reduced to software companies dedicated to writing software instead.

  • Yes, but... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by shogarth (668598) on Tuesday June 15, 2004 @02:31PM (#9433512)
    ...most users still can't program a digital clock without help and most techs can't develop an interface that my grandmother can use. Until these two factors converge, high tech toys are going to remain the Playthings of Geekdom.
    • Re:Yes, but... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by tsg (262138) on Tuesday June 15, 2004 @02:55PM (#9433846)
      ...most users still can't program a digital clock without help and most techs can't develop an interface that my grandmother can use.

      Not to be insensitive, but your grandmother is going to die. Meanwhile the children being born today are growing up with the technology and will have no trouble using it. At two years old (he's four now), my son could put the tape in the VCR (even looks to make sure there's not one in already and ejects it if there is), switch the TV to Video, press play, and fast forward through the previews with no help from me. He's already proficient on a PC, even understands the difference between single and double-click and knows to wait when the hourglass comes up. Again, no offense, but my son could probably kick your grandmother's ass on a computer. Your grandmother is not the market for these devices. My son is.
      • Re:Yes, but... (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Cro Magnon (467622)
        So what? VCR's are already obsolete. And by the time Junior grows up, the interface on a PC will have changed at least 5 times. Soon, your kid will be in the same boat as the other poster's granny!
  • by Flashpot (773365) on Tuesday June 15, 2004 @02:31PM (#9433513)
    It seems to me this "convergence" thing is about making every *smart* piece of equipment a playback machine for some *drm controlled* content.

    Thanks but no thanks.

  • by kfg (145172) on Tuesday June 15, 2004 @02:32PM (#9433523)
    Having one home sound reproduction device makes sense.

    It saves complication and cost. It's just good engineering to simplify the system by reducing redundency to the optimum (not necessarily the minimum).

    Having your toaster call up a website to find out how far up it should turn the rheostat, phone your mom to let her know you're actually eating a good breakfast, tell you the next chess move in that game with your buddy and then starting your car does not reduce complication and cost.

    It is a poor solution.

    There's nothing wrong with convergence, so long as the convergence makes inherent sense.

    KFG
  • by sexylicious (679192) on Tuesday June 15, 2004 @02:32PM (#9433526)
    You turn on the TV to watch a movie...
    "Problems down there? TRY CIALIS!"
    Or you go to the kitchen to get something to drink...
    "We've got the largest selection of dolls!"

    Like I'd want any of my appliances trying to sell me penis enlargement pills.
  • Yawn. These convergence hype stories were more fun back in the 1990s when people were talking about the convergence of tech and sex. Teledildonics [wikipedia.org] stories were always good for a laugh. This stuff is just plain dull.

    The most successful convergence device in recent history remains the clock-radio.
  • by AltGrendel (175092) <ag-slashdot@nOspAM.exit0.us> on Tuesday June 15, 2004 @02:33PM (#9433537) Homepage
    Then we can all be individuals in the same way!
  • Apple (Score:3, Insightful)

    by BortQ (468164) on Tuesday June 15, 2004 @02:34PM (#9433560) Homepage Journal
    Apple really did a great job with their new Airport Express. It isn't what you would normally think of as 'convergence', but it accomplishes exactly what users want. Existing computer and stereo working together without a big hassle.
  • Remember the one where he gets fed up with technology, and murders his house?
  • by Ra5pu7in (603513) <ra5pu7in&gmail,com> on Tuesday June 15, 2004 @02:38PM (#9433621) Journal
    The biggest problem to come of convergence is the inability to get just what you need and want. I may only want a cell phone that can make phone calls - not a mini PDA / game machine. With the current rush, some manufacturers and developers are forgetting to leave the basic product available.

    Another problem is that a converged product may make you sacrifice performance in one area for performance in another. For example (made up, of course) a monitor/television/CD/DVD player combination might have the best visual clarity, but be so-so at reading DVDs and skip a lot -- while a competing product might play DVDs flawlessly, but max out at 800x680 resolution. The more converged products become, the less choice we consumers have to maximize the quality and/or minimize our cost.
    • I may only want a cell phone that can make phone calls - not a mini PDA / game machine. With the current rush, some manufacturers and developers are forgetting to leave the basic product available

      Oh no they haven't forgotten. But if they give you one device that works perfectly well for the one need you have, they can't sell you another one a year from now.
  • Who knows. Maybe someday we'll need anti-virus software for our cell-phones. Oh wait...
  • Convergence? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by YrWrstNtmr (564987) on Tuesday June 15, 2004 @02:41PM (#9433662)
    How about converging the warm air coming from the back of the fridge into something useful, like keeping the coffee pot warm? Or how about converging some sunlight into hot water?

    How converging something useful?
    I don't need a pinhole camera that makes crappy sounding phone calls and plays mp3's.
  • by jdavidb (449077) on Tuesday June 15, 2004 @02:41PM (#9433664) Homepage Journal

    ... then shouldn't it be a "Big Crunch" [wikipedia.org] instead of a "Big Bang"?

    I'm about as enthusiastic about merging my cellphone and refrigerator with my PDA and electric blanket as I am about living through the Big Crunch, so maybe it's an appropriate name, too...

  • Rewriting History (Score:5, Informative)

    by meehawl (73285) <meehawl,spam&gmail,com> on Tuesday June 15, 2004 @02:47PM (#9433739) Homepage Journal
    Consider a couple of the pioneers. With the iPod music player, Apple Computer added a tiny hard drive to a music-playing computer and -- voilá! -- vast music collections suddenly fit into a pocket.

    The quantity of historical revisionism in what passes for business journalism never ceases to amaze me. Goebbels would be proud!

    Archos was first company to market with a hard drive-based mp3 player in late 2000, although Compaq had a prototype device in early 2000 that they failed to market. There was even an open-source project to build a "High Capacity MP3 Player [pjrc.com]" in 2000 that quickly advanced to using hard drives.
  • by windside (112784) <pmjboyle.gmail@com> on Tuesday June 15, 2004 @02:55PM (#9433848)

    The result is a Big Bang of convergence...

    Does anyone else find this statement just a wee bit contradictory? Isn't the "Big Bang" metaphor traditionally reserved for describing phenomena of divergence? Maybe it would be more appropriate to call it a "Big Crunch [wikipedia.org] of convergence".

    Just a thought...

  • by Barlo_Mung_42 (411228) on Tuesday June 15, 2004 @03:03PM (#9433961) Homepage
    "Sure, your fridge will tell you you need milk..."

    I'm going to be pissed if I can't program in vegan options. I don't need my fridge trying to puch animal products on me.
    FRIDGE: "Your soy milk is past due Dave. It is time to buy milk."
    ME: "Shut the hell up and open the damn pod bay door!"
  • Urban commando phone (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mcrbids (148650) on Tuesday June 15, 2004 @03:22PM (#9434190) Journal
    I live my life with a cell phone stuck to my waist. It's a way of life - I'll be outside, lounging in the backyard with a good Sagan book, and I need to ask one of the kids to change out the laundry.

    I reach for my hip, call the house (50 feet away) and tell one of the kids to change out the laundry.

    However, there are a few itches that, if scratched, would make my phone ohhh so much more utilitarian.

    I could care less about downloadable ring tones, and the crappy resolution in most picture-phones leaves alot to be desired.

    I'm picturing the ultimate in day-to-day utility.

    I call it: the "Urban Commando Phone"

    OK, picture this:

    Your ordinary, average-looking cell phone, containing:

    1) A cell phone - very stock, very ordinary. Clips to your belt like any decent cell phone should.

    2) A flashlight - using a single, blue-white LED bulb on one of the top corners, you have an instant, usable, but not particularly bright flashlight. Help you find your keys, whatever. Why hasn't anybody thought of this no-brainer?

    3) A universal remote control. You have all those buttons on your cell phone, you have plenty of battery life, why not a trainable universal remote control? Best part - if you lose it, you can just call it with another phone!
  • by fikx (704101) on Tuesday June 15, 2004 @03:43PM (#9434442) Journal
    I'd rather all the different devices work together instead of building all my devices into one. Let me put my phone call into my car speakers....let me take the picture on my PC and put it up on my TV....let me share a photo from my camera on the screen of the the guy next to me with a laptop...

    I know you can do all these things now, but not without a bunch of proprietary, unpredictable fiddling even if the right devices are involved. I want the ability to be common, not a rare combination. If converagnce means all my gadgets have the computing power to speak the same language, then Let's do it!
  • by JRHelgeson (576325) on Tuesday June 15, 2004 @03:58PM (#9434599) Homepage Journal
    So, I open my web browser at work, log into my refrigerator at home only to hear it say: "You've got Mold!"

    ...Sorry

It's a poor workman who blames his tools.

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