Amazon Dash is another great example of un-bundling the smartphone

The newly launched Amazon Dash device (link) is a single-purpose hardware device that allows users to scan the items in their fridge or pantry that they’re running low on, and an order is automatically sent to Amazon’s fresh grocery service.

I find it very interesting because it is representative of how you can now build hardware so cheaply that the advantages of the unique form-factor versus a smartphone app outweigh the marginal cost of purchasing the hardware.

Sure you could do everything Dash does with a smartphone app… but having dedicated hardware makes it easy, and it is cheap (enough).

As the cost of embedded processing, sensors and (in some cases) glass continues to collapse, I predict we’ll see even more smartphone un-bundling into discreet, single-purpose connected hardware devices.

Device fatigue and the next connected device form factor

A pile of devices
Photo: Wikimedia

I suffer from device fatigue.

Not just the kind where I cannot deal with the sheer number of connected devices, gadgets and gizmos being released every day – but the kind where I am overwhelmed with the number of devices that I actually already own.

I have a Macbook Air, a Sony Vaio running Windows 8, a Surface Pro tablet, a Nokia Lumia 920, a first-generation iPad and a Kindle, and in my living room I also have an XBOX 360.

And that’s not counting devices that I have temporarily for testing or benchmarking… the iPads, the Galaxies, the Kindle Fires…

Now, I like devices, and I work for a device company and my job is building device software, so i’m trying to build them into my life… but I just cannot deal with having so many different devices. The basket under the bookshelf where I put old devices is overflowing with dead, partially working or even fully functional devices that I just can’t find a good reason to carry anymore.

They all have their specific use cases and particular strong points: the MacBook’s power and good quality hard keyboard; the tablet’s big screen but relative portability; the smartphone’s ultra-portability and LTE connection… But the real problem is that there is maybe 80% crossover in the use cases and usage contexts of the different form factors, and this is frustrating and tiring.

I want one device that does everything – but I don’t want to trade the specific benefits of particular form factors, like the portability of my Lumia 920 and its amazing camera, or the stylus/drawing input of the tablet, or the physical keyboard and relative horsepower of my Macbook.

One of the greatest challenge now facing connected device manufacturers I think is the next form factor. The form factor that truly converges the fragmented connected device space.

While the last 5 years or so since tablets started their meteoric blast into consumers’ living rooms the focus has been on device divergence – building devices of every conceivable form factor, with increasing household incomes (in first-world markets) driving a huge increase multi-device ownership.

The next 5 years will be about device convergence. The search for the next form factor that unites your devices into a single, adaptable and flexible touchpoint.