Published on February 9, 2010

This post was previously on the Pathfinder Software site. Pathfinder Software changed its name to Orthogonal in 2016. Read more.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the Skype Video Phone, part of a trend towards trading needless complexity for simplicity and ease of use. It’s also on the wrong side of another trend: The trend away from single-purpose mobile devices to flexible mobile platforms.

For a while there was a trend towards more and more purpose-built digital products, from e-book readers to portable picture frames and pocket-size digital cameras, all the way to digital recipe readers ($299) and tablet pcs with tough cases, handles and barcode scanners for the medical industry.

The iPhone, the iPod Touch and the soon to be launched iPad signal a reverse of that trend. Apple has designed and built flexible platforms that combine the ease of use and simplicity that single purpose devices with the flexibility of general purpose devices, and that is proving to be a compelling value proposition.

On the iPad, for example, you can easily get as good or better a recipe reader experience as you would with the demy digital recipe reader, a better digital picture frame or slide show experience than with a digital picture frame, likely as good or better of an ebook reader experience, and likely as good or better of a bar code scanning medical tablet experience.

How is that last possible, when the iPad does not come with a bar code scanner? The solution will likely be through peripherals built into functional cases. As an example, take a look at the digital checkout devices like Apple’s own EasyPay touch (used at Apple’s retail stores), Verifone and Morphie – that combine a magnetic card reader, a bar code scanner and a battery in a case for an iPod touch.

And of course, when the video enabled iPad finally comes out, it will likely replace the Skype Video Phone that my parents so love.