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September 30, 2009

Nokia N900 – the evolution of the converged device

Nokia N900GLOBAL – Reading an interview with Nokia CEO OPK in India’s Economic Times, a few lines just struck me. Talking about the evolution of the mobile handset, OPK shines a light on the competition for mobile devices – in essence, saying there isn’t any. Specifically, OPK says “I don’t think that it’s the mobile device versus anything else. It’s a question about the convergence space where a lot of opportunities will arise.” Now, I’m not going to read into what OPK is saying here particularly as he’s talking in a much wider business context, but instead I’d like to use it as a base point to think about what it means from a consumer point of view.

My pocket only ever contains one device. There simply isn’t room for any more. So what OPK says rings true, for me at least. The statement itself is simple, and blindingly obvious. The mobile isn’t going to compete head to head with the camera market, or the satnav market or the notebook market, and neither are manufacturers from any of those places going to compete with mobile devices. It doesn’t mean I’m going to stop buying any of those products individually, simply that I’m not going to choose any of them over my phone (or should I say, mobile device).

The “convergence space” I take OPK to be referring to is that single device we all carry with us wherever we go. That established, it’s good to think about that device’s own evolution. My article yesterday on the 6310 highlighted how far we’ve come in such little time. But it doesn’t stop here, the evolution is continuing apace.

And so the shift in emphasis to software and services is an interesting one to throw into the evolutionary mix. Could it be that soon we’ll reach the plateau of device development? That isn’t to suggest that hardware wouldn’t continue to evolve, simply that we reach a point where the mobile device ticks the majority of boxes that need to be ticked. It contains the required functionality of the “converged device” and no more additional hardware is needed. After all, what else could we get, or would we want to get, into our pockets?

It’s not such an abstract notion to think that soon we’ll reach a point where the hardware is fundamentally perfect (okay, there’ll always be some way to improve) and it’ll simply be down to the software, appearance and how it all works together. Take that and combine it with the ability to customise it to make it our own and we have the perfect device. The device that’s exactly right for me. The device that on the outside, might well look the same as everyone else’s, but on the inside could only ever be mine.

As time moves on it seems we’re moving ever closer to that moment. Recently I spent a little time with a Nokia N900. It feels timeless and ready. It has all the tech I want, for now. I can’t think of what else I might like to put in there. Save perhaps for how, once I get my hands on my own one, I might get to work on making it unique, making it the centre of my own converged world.

I’m sure the N900 isn’t going to be perfect when it lands, but there’s a good chance it’ll get pretty close. Now that abstract notion is starting to look more real. But then, that’s evolution. Isn’t it?