Should you consolidate all your technology into one device?

The Samsung Omnia wowed crowds at the 2009 Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain.  See more cell phone pictures.
AP Photo/Manu Fernandez

What gadgets do you take with you when you go on a trip? If you're a true tech-head, you might bring along a cell phone, a digital camera, a radio, a camcorder, a GPS receiver, an MP3 player and maybe a portable video game device. If you can't go a day without watching your favorite shows, you might also pack a small television on top of everything else. And we haven't even touched the subject of portable computers!

But what if you could wrap all of those gadgets into a single device? These devices could be multi-functional and could help you save space while you pack for a trip. Why carry eight gadgets when one does everything you need?

We call the trend of multiple devices coalescing into a single form factor convergence. If you take a close look at the tech market, you'll see that many devices now incorporate functions traditionally performed by other gadgets. Cell phones are a good example -- manufacturers began adding digital cameras to cell phones and consumers responded with enthusiasm. Before long, you could find cell phones that could take photos, play MP3 files and even surf the Web.

Now that smartphones have a foothold in the consumer market, you can find devices like the Samsung Omnia that incorporate a camera, a GPS receiver, WiFi connectivity and other features. And many smartphone operating system designers allow third-party developers to create applications that further extend the functionality of the phones.

Meanwhile, netbooks are becoming more popular, too. Netbooks are light, portable computers that don't have a very powerful processor or a lot of storage space. Instead, netbook users access services on the Web and let remote computers do all the heavy lifting. Some netbooks now incorporate GPS receivers, webcams and other advanced features. A few netbooks running on Google's Android operating system -- originally designed for smartphones and other mobile devices -- may soon hit the market. They aren't as portable or convenient as smartphones, but they have larger screens and are a little easier to use if you need to do some moderate computing.

Next, let's take a quick look at the pros and cons of consolidating all your devices into a single form factor.