Anticonvergence: The Next Stage in the Wireless Revolution
This is a new wireless meme that takes a second to grok, but once you get it, it makes perfect sense and you realize that this is how things will be. The big trend for the past several years has been convergence: Your mobile phone, camera/video, game machine, MP3 player, PDA, etc. will all become the same device. It's happening already with multi-function gadgets like the Symbian devices I've been ranting so much about lately.
But there's been two bits of news lately which points to another up and coming trend which I'm calling "anticonvergence". Wireless connections are allowing individual gadgets to talk to each other so that you don't need to have everything all in the same box. The news about Sony's new Portable 20 Gig HD with WiFi was a sign towards this trend. Now your computer or your PDA can store and access data wirelessly without having to actually have 20 Gigs installed locally. Another example is when I was writing the other day about Sony's new Super Moblogging PDA, I mentioned that you could connect it to your mobile phone via Bluetooth to get a connection to the internet to send. One device for taking and annotating photos, another device for handling the internet connection. This is what I'm talking about when I say anticonvergence.
A company called IXI is taking the concept to the extremes and have created a small device which acts as a hub to the various devices that might want to talk to each other and share services. They're calling it the Personal Mobile Gateway (PMG), and going to demonstrate it at the 3GSM Congress this month. This device will allow all the peripheral gadgets to be small and light, focused on the thing they do best with fewer compromises to their functionality in order to get it all in the same package. It's an interesting concept. Here's more specifics about what IXI is doing from almost 2 years ago(!) Jim has talked about this company in the past and just pointed out these articles to me via IM and is excited because it looks like the PMG has gone from being vapor to something real. It should be interesting to see what comes of it. Thanks Jim!
But I think that even if IXI drops the ball, it's a concept that's going to come about by natural selection anyways. Manufacturers will continue to add wireless functionality to all their devices and at some tipping point, they're going to figure out that organizing how the different gadgets talk will appeal to consumers and save them money. What's smart about what IXI is doing is that they're creating software to allow this to happen seamlessly, but where there's opportunity there will be competition, so I'm sure that other manufacturers - especially innovative companies like Sony - are already thinking about similar initiatives.
This stuff all sounds like fantasy, but with specs like Bluetooth and WiFi now real and manufacturers adding the functionality everywhere, it's becoming very real very quickly. Exciting stuff!
Later... Looks like I'm almost exactly one year behind the curve on this thought. After wondering whether "anticonvergence" or "deconvergence" was a better name - and I think the first is since the movement is "against" converging devices, not taking something that's converged already and undoing it - I decided to do a Google search on both those names and for "deconvergence" ran across this Business 2.0 piece about IXI with links to other articles on the subject like this one at Portable Design. Both from January and Februrary of LAST YEAR.
LOL. Well, I guess spotting a trend late is better than never spotting it at all, hey? -R