Digital Swiss Army knives

Original image by IK's World Trip

Once upon a time, my telephone did one thing: make telephone calls.

Now, my telephone does many different things. It takes photos. It's a GPS. It lets me play Doodle Jump. My cell phone is like a digital Swiss Army knife. Designers call this "convergence." But does packing all that functionality into a single gadget make it better?

In the consumer electronics world, it seems we're seeing two concurrent trends: one towards convergence, and another moving away from it. While smartphones and netbooks and tablet computers may pack more functions per square inch, there's also a move towards "do one thing really well" devices such as Amazon's Kindle or the Flip video camera.

This week, Nora will talk to two designers about this the relative merits of single-purpose and multi-function devices. Bill Buxton and Jared Spool will drop by the Spark studios to share their thoughts and experiences with designing these sorts of tools.

We'd love to include some of your thoughts and questions in the discussion. Do you have a single-purpose device that you can't live without? Or do you love that your camera and your telephone are the same device? Leave your thought in the comments, or dial 1-877-347-7275 toll free in Canada.


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