For the past decade we have been all aiming towards convergence. Many of us in the blogosphere have been written many a post on the idea of convergence created by broadband, unification of messaging and such. After watching and listening to a series of presentations the last two days at Telco 2.0 Executive Brainstorm, I have to start thinking the other way.
We are entering the era of divergence. Well, at least in the aspect of devices and services.
For example, while it may make total sense to carry a phone that is a camera and GPS all in one, like the Nokia N95, because it provides a very solid experience with each feature, we're also seeing that as real world lifestyle and online lives blend there is the growing need for purpose built devices.
Let me give a few examples. The FaceBook or MySpace Fone.
I think the move by Skype with MySpace that was announced yesterday, where they integrated Skype Voice into MySpace IM, without all the other trappings of Skype (i.e. no plug ins, add ons) would relate well to a MySpace Communicator that would be perfect for the teenage crowd that spends alot of their day (and night) using MySpace as their personal communications portal. Skype would be the phone system, and over time the more advance functions can be developed using the device, not MySpace.
The same could be said for Facebook, where a phone that works with Facebook, and treats Facebook as the operating system (credit Facebook as an OS to Jeff Pulver not me) and works with the growing number of applications that Facebook has --video mail, voice mail, phone calling, conference calling, photo sharing, calendaring, etc., and thus lets someone run their life in and around Facebook interactivity.
You could have your breakfast or what I'd call your dining device. It would replace your newspaper, may replace your TV or radio, as it would be a media centric type of semi-lean back/lean forward. It would have a keyboard, much like the just announced Nokia N810, that Dave Winer and Oliver Starr have been on top of since its launch yesterday, while I've been busy hailing cabs and learning what's going to be next. You would work mostly with applications that are on the cloud, or use thin and light client applications that manage the data. You would use the device for light work, like email, short documents or basic computational work. It could connect to your desktop, laptop or server, but not be those. In essence it is an extension, with some brains, that is smart enough to go to the bigger brain for the heavy lifting.
There would also be the active lifestyle devices. One for those in motion. Cyclists. Joggers. Marathoners. Skiers. Another for those who fly or sail. Each would have a core purpose, and yet still be linked to the central repository of information. You would still get things like alerts, emails, calendar, but in a way that the information is delivered, formatted for the activity, not one device that almost does it right, but not quite. Ergonomics and behavior will come into play here a lot.
In the end we have more devices, but instead of taking a Swiss Army Knife out, for a fencing match, you'll have your sabre. I mean, you don't take a knife to a gunfight, so why go for an almost, when you can have it all.
Close. Almost. Everything or Just What I Needed.
I prefer just what I needed, as everything is to much to carry, and usually makes things hard to find which means we need to be able to blend convergence of technology with divergence of devices and lifestyle to make it all work..
Update-TechCrunch UK has a post on VoIP Over Social Networks that ties into this concept too.