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Smart, application-driven devices to replace PCs claims report

Forrester sees a Jetson world without PCs, TVs and phones -- but how do you get there from here?

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PCs, phones and TVs are all dead in the long run, says Forrester Research, and the revolution starts this year. But the outfit doesn't seem entirely clear about what happens between now and the big breakthrough, which is scheduled for 2004. Forrester seems to have been driven to the length of inventing a new category to explain what's going to happen. 'Smart packs', it says, are bundled devices and services that meet consumer needs -- so essentially rather than being general-purpose systems in the PC, TV or phone category, they'll be far wider ranges of cheap application-driven devices. But development routes pursued so far won't be particularly fruitful -- vendors' attempts to converge consumer devices have resulted in expensive products that lack a clear, compelling utility, says Forrester. Smart packs, on the other hand, will supplant traditional consumer technologies "by combining intuitive devices with personal Internet content," Says Tom Rhinelander of Forrester's People & Technology Strategies service. "To deliver what consumers want -- focused utility, personalised context, immediate access, simple operation, and affordability -- vendors will need to rethink their consumer electronic offerings. Only new combinations of easy-to-use devices and personalised services can meet consumers' demands for the right content at the right place at the right time." Forrester reckons that these devices will combine low-cost processors and phone line and wireless network connections to provide "the means to deliver and process a wide range of content, while synchronisation, personalisation and filtering software will keep the information up to date and tailored to each individual's needs. As these devices evolve, more and more content will become available in standard formats, including IP-enabled voice and video. "By 2004, smart pack devices will be indistinguishable from their accompanying service offerings. Directory phones that link to personal and public address books and deliver information like movie listings via the Internet will be commonplace. All-purpose digital displays and digital cable services will blur the distinctions between televisions and PCs, while application-specific products like digital checkbooks and electronic family calendars steal market share from low-cost PCs. A market shift toward leases will accelerate the adoption of smart pack devices and fundamentally change the consumer technology landscape." Ah, but how do you get there from here? Forrester seems to be able to envisage a point where it's all fixed and working, but there are all sorts of disparate ingredients that are going to have to go into the brew before this can be achieved. Applications, content, service providers, transportation and hardware are all going to have to work together, and how this will happen, and which companies will drive it is entirely unclear. ®

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