The Eight (Seven…Six?) Information Devices I Can’t Live Without

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Roku digital player, which connects via Wi-Fi and the Internet to Netflix’s Watch Instantly service and Amazon Video on Demand. (Because I got the Roku box around the same time I canceled the cable, this was technically a one-for-one swap rather than a subtraction.)

The land line telephone. The AT&T cellular signal in the neighborhood of my apartment recently improved to the point that I was able to cancel my Comcast digital voice line. The signal still isn’t great, and I can’t rely on it for important conversations or interviews. Luckily, there’s always Skype—which now has a great iPhone app, in addition to its trusty Mac and PC versions.

The death toll among information devices is likely to increase over time—with the iPhone and similar mobile devices as the perpetrators. As Dan Shapiro, CEO of Seattle-based Ontela, has argued in a perceptive column for our own Xconomist Forum, smartphones are crossing what he calls the GET, the “good-enough threshold,” in more and more areas, and consequently putting older information devices in danger of extinction. Clearly, phones have already crossed the GET as media players, and Dan thinks point-and-shoot cameras and game consoles are next in line. I would add GPS receivers, portable DVD players, and pocket-sized HD video cameras like the Flip.

My own list of eight devices could decrease to seven if I wanted to do without my Kindle 2. It’s the newest of my gadgets, and the current darling. But I can read all the same e-books using the Kindle app on my iPhone.

And seven would shrink to six if my ancient Dell laptop expired, as it eventually will. I keep it around for two reasons only: to store my digital photos, and to run Quicken, where I’ve built up about 10 years of financial and tax records. But both of these functions are rapidly migrating to the Internet. My camera’s Eye-Fi card sends all of my photos to Flickr automatically, and I’ve been experimenting with Quicken Online, which isn’t as powerful as the desktop version but is, in many ways, easier to use.

Six devices is probably my absolute minimum, barring some startling technological change. As long as I work for Xconomy, I’ll need the Mac laptop. And even the iPhone 4G or 5G or 6G isn’t likely to duplicate the functions of my HDTV, Xbox, Canon camera, and Roku player. (But I wouldn’t be too surprised if my next TV had something like the Roku built in—which would subtract one device, leaving me with five.)

So, what are your indispensable information devices? Would you like to have fewer, or are you perfectly happy juggling a dozen or more gadgets daily? Let me know in a comment below. I’ll compile everyone’s feedback into a future column.

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Wade Roush is a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @wroush

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