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Innovation

I don't want an MP3 player/camera/ebook reader/gaming device. Do you?

Common wisdom says we're hurtling toward a world where a single portable device will be all you need to handle a wide variety of consumerish tasks. But the further we approach that end goal, the less I want to end up there. Today's Apple music announcements reminded me of that fact.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor on

Common wisdom says we're hurtling toward a world where a single portable device will be all you need to handle a wide variety of consumerish tasks.

But the further we approach that end goal, the less I want to end up there. Today's Apple music announcements reminded me of that fact.

I am not an iPod/iPhone/iMac user. I have a Sony Walkman MP3 player, an LG (non Windows Mobile) phone and a Windows PC. I also have an Amazon Kindle and a Panasonic camera. I carry a big bag which usually contains at least two or three of these devices at any given time.

I'm willing to cart all this stuff around because I want my phone to be a good phone. I don't care if it can browse the Web or hold hundreds of pictures that I can flick through at a moment's notice. If it's not good at making and receiving calls, it's not worth having. I want my camera to be a decent camera. I don't care about capturing video clips on it. I want my ebook reader to allow me to purchase and read books. Even though it has built-in wireless and a browser, I have used it to check the Web once in four months or so.

I thought I might be in the minority in my views about device convergence -- until I asked folks on Twitter if they were fans of the single device ideal. Most who replied were not. Some cited battery-life issues as the reason they weren't keen on the single-device-does-all idea. Others said they weren't interested in devices that were OK at lots of tasks but great at none of them. I don't need a camera that posts to Twitter, one of my Tweet-buddies quipped.

I've been playing lately with the Zune subscription service. (Hey, I never claimed to be an early adopter; in fact, I'm typically a "wait for at least the third version" one.) With the Zune Pass, for $15 a month, you can download a lot of music and keep 10 tracks a month. The Zune Pass service works nicely with my Sony player -- not surprising given Microsoft's growing emphasis on Zune as software and a service and deemphasis of it as a standalone MP3 player. Yes, there are new and much improved Zune players coming on September 15, but I'm far more interested in the non-hardware-specific components than the Zune HDs themselves, especially given my Sony MP3 player is still working well two years after I bought it.

Maybe those of us who would feel more affinity with a portable rotary phone (thanks for the link, Jake) than an all-in-one multi-touch phone/videocam/ebook reader/gaming/photo display/browsing  pedometer/voice-recording device should stop focusing so much on the next cool gadget and pay more attention to the software/services that make them tick.

(Update: As one reader noted, an all-in-one MP3 player/camera/ebook reader/gaming device also could be called a PC. In fact, Apple almost seemed to be repositioning the iPod Touch as a rival to a full-fledged PC as part of its September 9 announcements.)

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