Wednesday, December 12, 2007

“God” box

Jon Oltsik at the CNET News Blog posted a blog entry this week on the “god box,” a single device “packed with ridiculous amounts of functionality.”

Think of an all-in-one television, cable box, TiVo, and home entertainment speaker system and you get the idea. One “god box” always replaces numerous more pedestrian systems.

According to Oltsik, new developments in processors, hardware commodification, and software are going to make these god boxes a reality.

My problem with this idea, though, is that I’m not sure who would want this kind of functionality in a single box. One caveat: though he doesn’t come out and say this, I think Oltsik’s post might be directed at the business networking crowd. I can see why a business IT department might want to distribute god boxes as terminals. However, since he brought up the home entertainment example, I don’t see how a god box would be desirable in that context. I think consumers have made it clear that they don’t want certain kinds of hybrid devices: computers that connect to the television have never caught on, for example. Rather, what people want is ease of connectivity, a “god network,” if you will. They want to watch TV on their TVs and compute on their computers; but, when they are away from those devices, they want to access their music, documents, TiVo programs, or live TV on their MP3 players or phones.

I think it is far more likely that the technological innovations Oltsik describes are going to turn the phone into a god device. It won’t be one where the majority of users will choose to do all of their specialized tasks—that is, the phone is not going to replace computers, televisions, home stereos and the like. Rather, it will be one that can access the functionality of those other devices on the go.

(Of course, cellphones are replacing all of these devices in Japan, so I could be completely wrong about the above.)

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