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Intel: Don't look for one device to do it all

All-in-one devices can't be expert at anything -- and can be lost, Intel execs say

November 23, 2009 06:00 AM ET

Computerworld - Business people and consumers looking for one electronic device that can take care of all their needs have false hopes, according to researchers at Intel Corp.

But scientists at Intel's research facility in Pittsburgh say they do expect that personal devices will one day become ... well, much more lovable.

Genevieve Bell, an Intel Fellow and director of user experience, explained that an all-in-one device -- one that includes a phone, an Internet connection, a pager, a camera, a calendar, a GPS system and other capabilities -- probably couldn't do anything exceptionally well.

And, she added, if a person lost the device that did all those tasks, he or she would have a really bad day.

"I'm not sure any device can carry all that weight," Bell told Computerworld in an interview at the 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."

Bell said that replacing laptops, smartphones, pagers and other everyday systems with a single device simply is too much convergence.

"Thinking we'll have one device that does everything is like our fetish with having paperless offices," she added. "It's jut not going to happen. The problem with convergence is we converge around the object and not the experience. As human beings, we are never just one thing. We are employees. We are partners. We are children. We are members of churches and social groups. We'll need different devices for different things."

Intel CTO Justin Rattner added that while there likely won't be an all-in-one device, new more personalized systems should be emerging from development labs soon.

"It's going to be about getting devices that know me," said Rattner. "That's something we think is really important. My phone doesn't know any more about me today than it did the day I got it. Think of the calendar in your phone as a soft sensor. The device should understand [from items posted in its calendar] what my day is like and whether I need vehicle navigation or I need to read something before an important meeting. [The cell phone] has all this information and it still doesn't do all that much for me."

Rattner said he looks forward to a time when an embedded camera in cell phones can recognize the owner, and whether someone else tries to use it. He also expects that next-generation phone will recognize traffic jams on his work route and then alert him to leave early and provide alternate routes.

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