Pundits talk about convergence of video, audio, and multimedia every six months whether it’s needed or not. Once again “convergence” has been declared a major trend in various product groups including portable products.
But maybe this time it’s for real. Only in this case convergence is being driven by a crazy-quilt of features offered for cell phones and other portable devices. DSP vendors and third party software developers offer every conceivable type of codec implementation that can run on a specific DSP. DSP vendors are motivated by “winning the socket” while software vendors must have a check in every comparison box to feel that they can compete. The net result is that wide availability of codecs encourages portable equipment developers to throw everything but the kitchen sink into what’s available to the marketing staff.
You can see some of the technology turmoil in the rapid change of features available in cell phones. Some of the change is motivated by consumer demand. Other changes are based on simply being able to implement a function. But the most telling trend is the one that informs us that portable devices are as much fashion accessory as functional device. Ask Verisign about fashion. The company has recently had to severely reduce Wall Street expectations for their Ring Tones business. Hot today, gone tomorrow.
The moral for engineers is to keep focus on sound engineering principles amidst the whirlwind. Solid, conservative, modular design to make the first products work correctly followed by cost engineering for those features that stick in the market is still the ticket for smart engineers. It takes smart engineering to survive in the world of consumer electronics.