A Direction for Near Future Tech
With current technology there is a trend towards the combining of functions and technologies. Perhaps it is not a "Swiss Army Knife" of technology we are looking at, but when you look at all that is being included in some items like your typically carried Cell phones -- there is a lot there.
I believe that all Cell phones include a phone book in them to record the numbers of calls coming in or going out. This is of course more convenient when tied in with the service of call display which many if not most subscribe to or have included in their service. Most if not all the phones also have some sort of calendar function in addition to a watch function and at least rudimentary alarm function if not one that can be programmed in conjunction with the calendar. Combining these they often have a virtual appointment book ability which would have been the envy of any business executive 20 years ago.
Nearly everyone could if they wish, have access to voice mail as well for missed calls or be able to forward calls to or from a regular phone service to their mobile one. They also have options to send or receive text messages. The price for them of course varies depending on service contract and location. (Not to mention date, phase of the moon, tide, which direction the last dark bird flew past your gaze...)
Those are pretty well standard sorts of communication things you might expect.
A bit more than that are Internet capabilities including being able to access eMail, Internet Chat services, and actual World Wide Web access. You might pay a bit heftier dollar for that ability and even more if you would like to be able to plug your portable computer into your cell phone whether it is a Notebook or Net book computer.
Beyond that... many of not most cell phones have the ability to take digital photographs if not short digital videos. It seems to me that the 1 Megapixel resolution level is very common if not greater. That is a log greater than most people might need for use in digital images for the Internet. Of course we are not talking about the needs of photographers here.
The phones -- and we aren't talking about the expensive sort really -- very often include the ability to download and play games in addition to other things like "ring tones" and background art for the control screen that nearly all phones have. That is the same screen you screen your digital pictures and videos on as well as check your messages and everything on.
The phone as well can often be used to play music on and can do well as an mp3 player with only the addition of decent headphones or earbuds.
All those things on fairly normal cell phones.
Then we get to the "smart phones" which are virtually tiny computers with complete keyboards or alternate methods for data entry. Some have nearly gone away from keys completely opting for total touch screen control -- that allows for the entire top surface of the device to be used as the device screen. Those can act as total digital assistants... or PDA -- Pocket Digital Assistants -- like the Palm Pilots of all. They seem to have superceded the Palm Pilots if you ever try go shopping for them.
The mp3 player has expanded as well to include the abilities to record sound like a portable voice recorder. The mp players also routinely include FM radio recievers and have enough memory to allow them to carry digital computer files within -- thus acting as "pen drives" or "memory sticks". Of course the mp3 players themself can use memory cards which gets sorta circular. The mp3 player also expanded into playing video and being an mp4 player. This is where they overlapped or became or inspired or...(?) the portable video player. The really nice ones also forgo the buttons for touch screens... and are nearly identical to the cell phones with the same screens. They just don't have the cell phone function. Though the mp3/video player ones did gain the wireless networking capability tha allows them to comunicate wirelessly and hence the good ones can access the Internet and do everything else those cell phone ones can do. They even play the same games in the same ways... and I believe from the same sources. Did I mention the phones can download and play the same videos the video players can?
Then there are the portable game players -- they have gotten more and more powerful and gained the ability to network wirelessly as well, and you can access the Internet as well as computers with them. Many of them have touch screens and they can be used to play videos or watch pictures on -- much like the mp3/video playes I have mentioned and the cell phones.
There are also eBook players out there whose purpose is to hold and display eBooks in various formats. They connect either through networking cables or more commonly now through wireless networking.
I might finally mention the digital picture frames which are very limited and the PDAs that I think morphed into the "smart phones" and mostly disappeared.
Perhaps the edges between these things are very much blurring -- especially if you take into account the notebook/laptop computers and their slightly smaller cousin the net book. I do see a direction that things might take with this blurry tech fog.
I think that people will start thinking of what their primary focus is and then go for the device that handles that best. Then they will purchase a device that does that best -- meaning with all the features of that dedicated device -- and have that device fitted with all the other features that would be convenient not to have to carry as separate devices.
Here is an example of what I am speaking:
Let's say I have a hobby that is photography. I would go to a camera shop and purchase a nice camera. It would have the lenses or a lens system that I would want. (I am not a photographer, so please bear with me as I am not so conversant with the terms and stuff.) Having chosen the camera I would also have a camera that would have digital memory for digitally recording the images as well as recording them on film. (Providing it took film photographs as well as digital ones.) It would be able to record sound and some video as well. The camera would be able to play mp3 files as a music player through headphones or ear buds although they might be bluetooth wireless ones. I would also be able to watch video content on the display screen of the camera if I should so choose. The camera would also have wireless networking to connect with WiFi hotspots or my computer and if I should choose I should be able to activate it to a cell phone plan and use it as a cell phone with a handy blue tooth headset. Not to mention using the camera for "texting" messages or as an address or date book.
Conversely if my prime usage were as a student, perhaps all of these functions might take place through a portable computer -- probably a net book for portability -- that I would use for all those functions.
I guess the idea sort of falls apart if you don't want to carry the large item everywhere, like when you don't want to carry the net book to everything, or the camera, or the digital tape recorder, or the electric guitar (with the phone etc. built in...)... But for the photographer, videographer, reporter, author, or other person who always carries their tools around with them...
Hmm, I guess they aren't building them into paint brushes or pens quite yet... but how about those scientific or engineering calculators... they still make calculators don't they?