To fully understand convergence we need to first look at the preconvergence world i.e. technological segregation. In a segregated world a radio is a radio. a TV is a TV. They provide separate functions. Not only is a computer a different animal but your laptop is mostly segregated from your desktop. Your games are played on dedicated devices or are boxes you take down from the shelf. Books are physical entities placed on a shelf. This is the land of the DVD player, stereo system, Atari 2600 game system, paper checkbook, FAX machine, copier and many other discrete items. All provide distinct functionality. This is the land of segregation and it has fought a stiff battle against convergence.
For years segregation has been attacked. In many cases the attacks have been feeble to the point of making people believe convergence wouldn’t happen; at least not in some particular are. Consider the FAX machine. For years there has been FAX software on computers tied to modems so you could FAX from your computer. Few used it. The simple user interface of the FAX won out. The first successful attempt was the merged FAX and printer. Here we have convergence at its lowest and simplest level. But there is something deeper going on here that has big implications for business. The printer convergence with the FAX machine is just a jagged step. Remember the hype over the paperless office? You don’t? Well, in the early days of the personal computer it was the rage. Paper would disappear or so the pundits said. A few years later someone noticed that even more paper was being used. It seems the computer accelerated paper usage rather than decreasing it. The pundits were wrong; or were they? This is an example of jagged, wandering paths (yes paths not path) to the final answer. If you jumped to the paperless concept you could take your company down a wrong path. Yet, in the end you would have been correct. We are headed to the paperless office but it is a winding road. Let’s return to the lowly FAX machine. The first successful convergence is FAX machine and printer. This is a small step and easy on the user. The same buttons are there. But… now there is a scanner since a FAX machine needs one. Now you can scan a document. There is the PDF format. If someone doesn’t have a FAX you can now scan and email. Once this habit is established and becomes accepted why not just scan and email all the time? Finally the paperless office wins a small battle. The tide has begun to turn. What was predicted many years ago is starting to happen but with little fanfare.