Last Updated Sep 22, 2010 6:27 PM EDT
Here are four ways previously ubiquitous mobile devices can reinvent themselves in the age of cannibalizing smartphones and tablets:
Remember the userbase: Success favors companies that remember their core audience. In the case of Contour, the helmet cam GPS data can be uploaded to its online forums. According to Gizmodo's Joe Brown, "Contour plans on staging virtual competitions, where camera owners race the same run at different times, and compare their times on the Web. After all, the GPS will go a long way towards keeping competitors honest." Uploadable GPS coordinates and times would be neglected by the average jack-of-all-trades device.
Avoid competing directly with the all-in-one devices: A low-end Google (GOOG) phone can get email, surf the web and do GPS easily, so competing products will have a hard time using their versatility as a selling point. For instance, Garmin recently admitted that its smartphone venture hasn't been financially successful. The Garminfone probably failed because consumers associate Garmin with GPS devices -- and smartphones have been able to do simulated, if not real-time GPS for years. The company is better off trying to revolutionize the GPS market than pushing an unremarkable phone.
Set the price relative to the all-in-one devices: The upcoming Kno tablet is going after a niche audience -- college students -- but not offering prices within its reach. According to CEO Osman Rashid, the dual-screen tablet will definitely be less than $1,000. The problem, of course, is that the leading tablet, the Apple (APPL) iPad, can be had by college students right now for half that price, which makes Rashid's promise a lot less impressive.
Use new technology multitaskers can't reasonably include yet: This spring Sharp (SRP) announced a chip that will make 3D video easier to film. An earlier BNET Gadget Watch post trumpeted it as a 3D tipping point for cell phones, but the very same technology could be used for, say, a high-end camera. New, often expensive technology shows the Achilles' heel with today's multitasking devices: All features must be cheap enough to keep the price reasonable. On the other hand, a digital camera maker can focus on one or two outstanding aspects and outshine the all-in-one units. It could also implement new technology such as 3D faster -- which could give it a big jump on the jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none competition.