Thursday, June 21, 2007

Convergence vs. Divergence

In the June 17 edition of Ad Age, marketing guru Al Ries contributes a column entitled "Another product of convergence, the iPhone is destined for failure."

I guess I'm not surprised. As gaga as everyone is going over this thing, it could be somewhat fashionable to pooh-pooh it. If the iPhone fizzles, "I told you so" will be worth its weight in gold. And if it doesn't, no harm in trying, eh?

But the column raises a couple of interesting ideas. One, Ries makes clear the difference between convergence devices -- tools that do multiple things -- and divergence devices -- tools that do one thing very, very well, setting it far apart from competing devices. The first iPod was a divergence device, Ries contends. Two, Ries suggests that convergence devices are destined to fail.

To make that case, he cites interactive television and media-center PCs. And -- this is what I love/hate about his argument -- he says that convergence failures are never seen as conceptual failures, but as execution failures? Huh? That's kind of like saying someone's being defensive, and when they say, "No, I'm not," responding by saying... "See!?!"

Of course there've been execution failures. But I don't think it's farfetched to think that interactive TV and media-center PCs (or centralized PC control of multiple devices or systems in the home, even lighting and heating) is a possibility in the future. What's to gain in writing off those ideas because no one's been able to execute on it yet?


1 comment:

JoeGermuska said...

I don't really see the iPhone as a convergence device. The iPod features are totally an afterthought to me. If I get one, I'll probably experiment with using it instead of my current iPod, but I'm more interested in it as an elegant networked communications device.

That just may be because I am holding out for someone to release such a device -- I could be projecting!