It finally gelled in my head what bugged me about the iPhone’s lack of simultaneous processing. It’s not truly a digital convergence device. It’s a sequential task device.
A digital convergence device is a device that does lots of things: MP3/FM music player, alarm clock, cell phone, web browser, calendar, address book, GPS-enabled map, pedometer, etc. The purpose of such a device is to do all of these things, not each of these things. If I can’t do them all simultaneously, it isn’t a convergence device, it’s a sequential device. The iPhone is exactly that: a sequential task device.
If I’ve decided I’m going to IM, I can’t do anything else with the phone — I can’t browse the web, can’t check on news feeds, can’t check email. The device is useless to me until I get an IM. If I wanted an IM-only device, I’d have bought one. I bought a digital convergence device. The same could be said of any app that receives data: Skype, Google Voice, Email, RSS feeds, Facebook sync, texting services, RTMPGs, etc, as well as anything that monitors anything like Google Latitude, a pedometer app, navigation app, etc. Anything I expect to alert me to something or to keep track of something either needs to “push notification” me, or I forfeit all other features of this device as I use it for that task. If it goes the push notification route, the logic must be in the cloud, not on my device, can’t be peer-to-peer, and can’t get real-time status call-backs — e.g. it can’t auto-detect where I am and update my progress. As an extreme example, I can’t count the number of times I was playing some random game and walked around for a while looking for a clock so I didn’t need to kill my game. My convergence device was in “single task” mode.
The notable exceptions to the single-use mode are all Apple apps: phone, iTunes, and alert apps such as calendar and text alerts. I can get a call which immediately and irrevocably halts anything I’m doing (including upgrading OS versions), and I can listen to iTunes music while I do a few other things. But what if my music player of choice is Pandora?
I think you see where I’m going with this. The iPhone clearly isn’t a digital convergence device. Neither is the iPad. It is clearly a sequential task device, a data snacker device. Pick the function you want it to do now, and it’ll do great. Want to do 2 things at once? Well of course, buy two of them. Want to get alerted when something happens? Buy a specialty device too. Um, I think I’ll pass.