THE INTERLINKERS

De­vice con­ver­gence is fi­nally in your hand. But are we ready to use the cam­era to browse the Web or fold the lap­top into a tablet?

Gadgets and Gizmos (India) - - CONTENTS - BY NANDAGOPAL RA­JAN

CON­VERGED DE­VICES ARE HERE, EAR­LIER THAN WE EVER AN­TIC­I­PATED. BUT ARE WE REALLY READY TO BROWSE THE NET ON OUR CAM­ERA OR FOLD OUR LAP­TOPS TO CON­VERT THEM INTO TABLETS?

Ex­perts have been talk­ing of de­vice con­ver­gence as the next big thing in tech­nol­ogy for well over a decade. But it only now that we have started see­ing and us­ing de­vices that share the same re­sources for syn­er­gised func­tions. This year, we have used cam­eras that let you browse the Net, share pho­tos and even play games. We tested televisions that let you do most of the things you would on a per­sonal com­puter. The tablet now as­pires to be a com­puter as well as a phone. Yes, this is the era of the in­ter­linked, con­verged gad­get.

But what qual­i­fies as a con­verged de­vice? Ide­ally, a sin­gle gad­get that can carry out the spe­cialised func­tions of two or more other de­vices can be called a con­verged de­vice.

The mo­bile phone has been a con­verged de­vice for a long time. It started by in­cor­po­rat­ing the sim­ple roles of a pager, alarm clock and cal­cu­la­tor. Now, it uses its tech re­sources to be a com­puter, cam­era and mu­sic player all in it­self, while adding new func­tions ev­ery day

through the mil­lions of apps avail­able.

A lot of other de­vices are now har­bour­ing sim­i­lar dreams. The new breed of An­droid cam­eras, for in­stance, try and add as many func­tions of a smart­phone as phys­i­cally pos­si­ble. Both the Nikon S800c and the Sam­sung Galaxy Cam­era can let you edit and share pho­tos you have clicked, wher­ever you are. The Sam­sung de­vice comes with a SIM slot so that you are not even teth­ered to a Wi-Fi hotspot like the former.

The big fa­cil­i­ta­tor here is the An­droid plat­form, which can be eas­ily added to any de­vice with a screen. So An­droid now pow­ers de­vices as di­verse as phones and televisions. Hav­ing An­droid on board means th­ese de­vices—well, most of them—are linked to the app ecosys­tem and can boost their ca­pa­bil­i­ties. With smart televisions you can play games, open and edit files that you have on Drop­box or other cloud ser­vices, check mail and so on, even as it im­proves on its core features with Full HD play­back and 3D.

The launch of Win­dows 8 has also ush­ered in a lot of such hy­brid de­vices, mostly lap­tops that con­vert into Ul­tra­books and vice-versa. And since you can make a full voice call from such de­vices, you have smart­phone func­tion­al­ity too. With this hap­pen­ing on Win­dows, we are likely to see mass ac­cep­tance of con­verged gad­gets that are good at both con­tent cre­ation and con­sump­tion.

An­other fac­tor that is aid­ing con­ver­gence is the in­creas­ing ac­ces­si­bil­ity to high- speed wire­less In­ter­net. You will no­tice that con­ver­gence now means giv­ing con­nec­tiv­ity to de­vices that are tra­di­tion­ally not known to have the same, like a cam­era or a re­frig­er­a­tor or even a DVD player. An in­ter­est­ing de­vice that came out this year was the Ep­son Move­rio BT100, a per­sonal video viewer that looks

like over-the-top sun­glasses. But the de­vice is An­droid based and lets you surf the Net or watch videos on­line in splen­did soli­tude. Since the de­vice also lets you ob­serve your sur­round­ings even as you are watch­ing a 3D video or read­ing some­thing on a web­site, it could be the pre­cur­sor to de­vices that use aug­mented re­al­ity to your ben­e­fit. (See page 10)

Alex Huang, Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor of Asus In­dia’s Sys­tem Busi­ness Group, says that con­ver­gence is be­com­ing a ma­jor busi­ness driver as users are find­ing the mul­ti­plic­ity of gad­gets dif­fi­cult to man­age. “An evolved user wants to carry a smart­phone, a tablet and maybe a lap­top PC or an Ul­tra­book. With the grow­ing de­mand, the in­dus­try has adopted this trend of con­flu­ence of de­vices.”

Ac­cord­ing to Huang, in­no­va­tion fo­cused on qual­ity and the devel­op­ment of user-friendly ap­pli­ca­tions and hard­ware will trans­form the mar­ket, open­ing the door to a myr­iad of prod­ucts. “Con­verged de­vices seam­lessly in­te­grate voice and data func­tion­al­i­ties, mak­ing in­stant ac­cess pos­si­ble any­where and any­time,” he says. “Com­pa­nies will need to have ex­per­tise in tablets, note­books and smart­phones to suc­ceed in the fu­ture mar­ket­place. In the coming days, users will have a sin­gle held de­vice with the ca­pa­bil­ity of be­ing used all the times and sup­port­ing all features.”

An­other area where you will likely see a lot of con­ver­gence will be the au­to­mo­bile sec­tor where con­nec­tiv­ity is al­ready be­com­ing a buzz word. A good ex­am­ple of con­ver­gence is Ford’s rev­o­lu­tion­ary SYNC con­nec­tiv­ity which main­tains the con­ti­nu­ity of your phone call even as it is trans­ferred from the hand­set to Blue­tooth when you en­ter the car. The tech­nol­ogy also al­lows the driver to make calls or play mu­sic via voice com­mands and a steer­ing wheel-mounted con­trols. This is be­com­ing a norm even in mid-level cars. Soon, you will see this con­tin­uum be­tween other de­vices too— like mu­sic or video on the phone shift­ing to in- car en­ter­tain­ment sys­tems as you open the door of your ve­hi­cle, or users be­ing able to take away their tele­vi­sion con­tent on a tablet or phone screen as they walk out of the house.

How­ever, the ini­tial wave of con­verged de­vices has shown that it is tough for man­u­fac­tur­ers to pro­vide de­vices that are good at ev­ery­thing they do. For in­stance, the An­droid cam­eras are great con­verged de­vices, but not ex­cep­tional cam­eras. In­tel­li­gent features in smart TVs, like mo­tion con­trol and voice con­trol, need fine-tuning be­fore they can be used ef­fec­tively enough to re­place the re­mote. An­other pit­fall with th­ese de­vices is se­cu­rity. Since users will need to give their per­sonal de­tails to use the An­droid OS on some of th­ese de­vices there are chances that cy­ber crim­i­nals will tar­get th­ese gad­gets for data theft. While most An­droid users don’t bother to get good pro­tec­tion on their phones, the chances of their adding an anti-virus to a cam­era or tele­vi­sion are even more re­mote. This is a con­cern man­u­fac­tur­ers will have to ad­dress soon.

But there is no deny­ing the fact that de­vices of the fu­ture will have to be con­verged in one way or the other. A gad­get with a sole func­tion will soon be­come a thing of the past, un­less it is an ac­ces­sory like a head­phone or mouse. What do you know, even th­ese de­vices are now ex­pand­ing their hori­zons.

“Thebestex­am­ple­o­faseam­lesstable­tand­key­board­form­fac­tor­canbe­seenin TheEeePad­trans­formertabletswhich­start­edthe­wave­ofhy­bridtablet­de­signs inthe­mar­ket. Its10.1-inchAn­droidtabletwith­ade­tach­ablekey­board,ex­tra con­nec­tor­sand­abuilt-in­bat­tery­help­sone­to­get­throughth­e­longestof­days.”

ALEXHUANG,MAN­AG­INGDI­REC­TOR,SYSTEMBUSINESSGROUP,ASUSINDIA

“Ep­son’sMove­rioseethrough­mo­bile­view­eris now­main­lyusedasan en­ter­tain­mentsys­temal­low­ing­cus­tomer­stoen­joy moviesandIn­ter­ne­ton­the go.In­the­fu­ture,weaimto makeMove­ri­o­eve­neasierto wearand­dra­mat­i­cally ex­pandthenum­berof ap­pli­ca­tions­by­tak­ing ad­van­ta­ge­ofthe­p­rod­uct’s abil­i­ty­toshowdig­i­tal im­ageswhen­everand wherever­cus­tom­er­sare.”

ALASTAIRBOURNE, SEIKOEPSONCORPORATION,

JA­PAN

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