Below and after the jump, highlights from many interesting dispatches on the "all in one" question: whether cameras, computers, e-readers, etc will naturally converge into one multi-purpose super-device -- or whether people will continue to carry separate cameras, laptops, e-readers, and so on. This is long but is meant as a wrap-up survey of views. (Update: in fact, there are a few more items for one more installment soon.) Thanks to many readers for their thoughts.
From a reader in Vietnam:
"If your all in one device crashes, then all your devices have crashed. If your cell phone crashes, only your cell phone has crashed. If your all in one is picked out of your pocket by a thief, they are all gone..."
From a reader in the US:
"In a sense, the all-in-one debate began with the laptop. The laptop bundles processor, hard drive, screen, keyboard, mouse, microphone, speakers, and webcam, all of which are inferior to their desktop relatives. Yet, laptops are extremely popular, certainly not eliminating desktop computers, yet replacing them much more than had been expected.
"One of the significant factors in that evolution is that the limited laptop is happy to be extended into greater desktop fullness. Some of the most elaborate and delicious desktop systems out there are extensions of laptops, such that, when the room full of hardware becomes an immobilizing anchor, the user can walk away with the all-in-one that everything plugs into. That kind of extensibility is the real next step in smart phones, one that we're only getting hints at, now. Yes, we will use specialized devices to take pictures, write books, watch full large screen movies, etc., but those devices will more and more be extenders of the all-in-one devices that will always be in our pockets, allowing us to do the full range of functions in small form when their extensions, for whatever the reason are not handy."
From a reader in the US on the Kindle-v-Nook point (yes, off topic, but on point):
"The main reason I have chosen not to buy the Kindle is Amazon. I view Amazon as a threat to something I value almost as much as books.
"If I have to choose between Amazon's device or B&N's, I will choose the latter. I want to support a company that maintains brick-and-mortar bookstores. These kinds of business help to make neighborhoods lively and livable. Moreover, only in real bookstores do I discover so many books that I never would have thought to look for.
"Whereas Amazon's business model diminishes communities, Barnes and Noble makes a neighborhood better."
From a reader whose wherabouts I do not know!
"I think the discussion of what tradeoffs consumers will accept vary greatly between function to function. Cameras will always stand alone.
"Sports cars won't exist much longer because some of today's economy cars already perform better than a lot of sports cars from just a few years ago."
"It's a bit of a ridiculous statement because it totally ignores why people buy sports cars in the first place. Similarly, anyone who says that cell phone cameras will ever replace high end point and shoots (much less SLRs) have a fundamental misunderstanding of the market and the technology trends. As your other readers have stated, sensor size and lens size matter a great deal more than megapixels.
"Here are some photographs taken with Canon's 10D, a 6 megapixel "prosumer" SLR released in 2003 and discontinued in 2004. 5 years later, I have yet to see any point and shoot match the quality that the 10D is capable of:
"The iPhone, one of the best cameras in the cell phone world, still suffers from fundamental problems. A lot of the pictures look pretty good, but when you try to take a photograph with low-light conditions, the noisiness and the blurriness will completely overcome the picture.
Here are some examples:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/aniulka_znad_baltyku/4046320126/ (note the blue specks in the black sky)
"Simply put, technology will never overcome the limitations of the signal-to-noise ratio when dealing with such small quantities of photons are available to focus onto a tiny sensor with a tiny lens. After a certain point you're running into some pretty formidable walls in particle physics.
"So the PDA and MP3 player and the cell phone are pretty much a single device now. But those were the lowest hanging fruit, and it will be difficult to go further from here.
From a reader in Western Massachusetts:
"I think you can make a reasonable argument that we are heading towards single-device convergence in each of three spheres of desire - that of portability, ease of use, and quality experience. As another reader noted, the iPhone already satisfies most people's requirements for purely portable use, and will continue to improve. That's one convergence of an internet connection, phone, e-reader, and PDA. However, we spend most of our lives in situations where we aren't traveling, and don't need the extreme portability of such a small device. It's silly to imagine office workers all sitting in cubicles, typing away at their new Blackberries. I would argue that for easy of use, especially in communicating via video chat, typing messages such as this, and being able to watch things on a large enough screen make today's laptop the endpoint of the ease-of-use convergence. Lastly, large TVs and home stereo setups will combine the needs of people looking for a quality experience.
"The interesting thing is to to imagine how these devices will get better and better at communicating. Thus, it might be that my data and applications are stored in an online cloud, available to me through any Internet-enabled device through my cellphone. My home TV might store it's settings on my iPhone, such that the channels I have preset literally stay with me.
"Families might get by with one laptop that loads up different software and documents depending on the user, all linked to their mobile device. That doesn't mean we've reduced everything to a single little screen, but it does mean that people can easily get by with ownership of a single, all-in-one device that enables our use of other technology."
One more installment ahead. Again, thanks to readers -- more interesting ramifications than I would have guessed.
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