Intel: No Handheld Device Can Do It All

People looking for one electronic device to handle all of their needs have false hopes, according to researchers at Intel Corp.

Genevieve Bell, an Intel research fellow and director of user experience, said that an all-in-one device -- one that offers phone and Internet service and also acts as a pager, camera, calendar, GPS device and more -- probably couldn't do any single task exceptionally well.

"I'm not sure any device can carry all that weight," Bell said in an interview at Intel's Pittsburgh lab. "I would love to get to a world where I only have one device. Your handbag would weigh less. But it would just never work. I think we'll actually have more devices."

Convergence can go too far, she added. "Thinking we'll have one device that does everything is like our fetish with having paperless offices," Bell said. "It's just not going to happen." The problem with convergence, she explained, is that "we converge around the object and not the experience. As human beings, we are never just one thing," so people will need different devices for the roles they play at work, at home and in the community.

Intel Chief Technology Officer Justin Rattner predicted that future electronic devices will become more personalized. For example, he said a device should understand from its built-in calendar "what my day is like and whether I need vehicle navigation or I need to read something before an important meeting."

Rattner said he looks forward to seeing phones with embedded cameras that will recognize their owners and know when they are being used by someone else. He said he also expects future phones to monitor traffic, notify users if they will need more time to reach a destination and provide them with alternate routes.

"Devices need to become more like personal assistants," Rattner concluded. "That's one way these devices will become more lovable."

This version of this story originally appeared in Computerworld's print edition. It's an edited version of an article that first ran on Computerworld.com.

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