Rohit Dadwal
Nov 20, 2012

Choosing form and function

Reading technology news can be very interesting. Of late, technology news has been dominated by the war of personal devices, as Apple and Samsung locked horns in court, and as device manufacturers ...

Choosing form and function

Reading technology news can be very interesting. Of late, technology news has been dominated by the war of personal devices, as Apple and Samsung locked horns in court, and as device manufacturers rolled out new phones and new tablets.

To some extent, the war is really being waged between Apple’s iOS-equipped devices and Samsung’s devices using Google’s Android operating system. Microsoft is still standing on the sidelines, although now that Windows 8 and the Surface Tablet have actually surfaced, it seems likely that they will soon enter the fray. In the meantime, Samsung and Motorola have released a slew of different devices with different form factors, perhaps in the hopes of reaching as many users as possible.

The result is a mind-boggling array of device choices for consumers, who can now choose between mobile phones, smart phones, phone/tablet hybrids as well as tablets of various sizes. To some extent, this device war also includes ebook readers – mainly because Barnes and Noble and Amazon both offer devices that are, basically, limited tablet computers. The situation will only become more complicated when more Windows 8 devices become available, as Microsoft licenses their operating system to other manufacturers.

On the one hand, this represents another hurdle for consumers, who already had a plethora of mobile phones to select from, not to mention a mind-boggling range of mobile phone plans. On the other hand, what this really marks is a profound shift in the nature of the mobile space. All these device manufacturers, after all, are merely responding to consumer demand to do more with their mobile devices, and are offering them ways to stay mobile that are not simply mobile phones.

Tablet devices, in particular, are taking off with such ferocity that the question of whether that form factor will replace the laptop is asked with great regularity. And the increasing size of screens available even on mobile phones will let people do more with their gadgets of choice.

“Convergence” was a catchphrase that was often bandied around in the past, and it has come true to some extent, as our mobile devices often include other functionality, such as camera or GPS functions. However, other hardware limitations have come into play – dedicated cameras are able to take better photographs than the average phone camera, for example. Battery life limitations also make it impractical to use one device for everything – such heavy use, for communication, entertainment, and general computing – would require so much power that it would not be able to get through a single working day. In addition, it looks like human needs are too complicated and varied for a single device to satisfy all use cases.

As far as form factors go, we find ourselves at an interesting place, where miniaturisation and convergence have occurred to practical limits. Now consumers have more choice, and can choose to use their powerful mobile phones by themselves, or together with their tablets, or in concert with laptops or other devices. Of course, this may present challenges for marketers, but more powerful devices will have no trouble scaling content and representing it on whatever screen is available.

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