FEATURE: Wireless convergence requires concurrence

For all the discussions of convergence during the past 10 years, it is mobile wireless that is now driving a form of convergence that is more comprehensive than anything previously contemplated. This is true convergence as wireless, computing, consumer electronics and entertainment coalesce in the palm of your hand. Technology companies are ramping innovation broadly to take advantage of consumer interest. And companies previously not mentioned in the same sentence are forming new partnerships to answer this call.

In the wireless industry, consumers are increasingly gravitating toward a single device to handle voice, calendaring, email, gaming and video. The cell phone in your pocket is transforming into the most personal device for entertainment and information access. The industry is quickly recognizing that this cross-pollination often presents lucrative business opportunities. However, in order for this trend to continue successfully, the wireless industry needs to recognize that true convergence requires effective concurrence. 

Convergence Requires Concurrence
Consider the scenario of a saleswoman on her way to an important customer meeting. Before she arrives, she joins a call with her manager using her Bluetooth headset. Simultaneously, she downloads the presentation needed for her meeting. While driving to the customer site, she taps into the GPS capabilities on her phone for directions and then connects to the Internet to check for any breaking news. After the meeting, she picks up her son from daycare, and he watches cartoons on her phone during the drive home. During the course of the day, this saleswoman has used wireless 3G cellular technologies such as EV-DO or HSDPA, as well as WiFi, GPS, Bluetooth and a purpose-built mobile multicasting network, and she has used many of these capabilities concurrently. What this points to is the need for a greater level of integration among the different airlinks and functions that go into truly making the device a powerful and useful tool--into the most personal device for information access and entertainment. Effective concurrence, its implications for the user interface and on the overall user experience is where the industry needs to focus as we move toward the end of the decade.

Cellphones today are already carrying multiple radios; future phones will, in a single device, support CDMA2000/EV-DO, WCDMA/HSPA, Bluetooth, WiFi, GPS, 802.20-based OFDMA and mobile TV airlinks. However, users are only concerned about what the phone can do and how easy it is to use.

Looking Ahead
As technology continues to advance, converged devices will inevitably dictate the need for concurrence--and without thoughtful solutions for concurrence, products will have a hard time in the marketplace. Convergence and concurrence will be optimized in the cellphone beyond what was envisioned when the central device was thought to be the computer and the network was the wired Internet. The device you always have with you is the right device to serve a wide variety of lifestyle needs. With it will come a host of new revenue sources for companies that are currently outside the technology industry, and incremental opportunities for those of us already offering technology-based products and services.

For this vision to work, integration must be so seamless that consumers won't realize where one application ends and where another one begins, where one technology starts up while another continues its useful activity. Even now, with the goal of creating a solution that is reliable, user friendly and affordable, companies are constantly working on leveraging existing technologies to push the limit of what a handset can do. As technology innovators, we have a responsibility to work together to create a system that drives innovation, serves consumers well and that fosters the development of services that people want and need.

Jeffrey K. Belk is senior vice president of marketing with QUALCOMM.