IT convergence needs lawyers, doctors, bankers too

The heads of Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. and Koninklijke Philips Electronics NV Tuesday independently called for industry cooperation to achieve the convergence of IT and consumer electronics.

IT vendors, consumer electronics makers and providers of services such as finance, logistics and medicine have to work together to make convergence happen, Samsung Vice Chairman and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Jong-Yong Yun said in a presentation at the ICT World Forum, a conference preceding the CeBIT trade show.

"Digital convergence is something we can't avoid," Yun said.

In a converged world, consumer electronics devices are always connected to one another and to the Internet and able to access a host of services. Vendors including Philips, Samsung and Sony Corp. all have plans for convergence and the digital home, but the technology to realize their plans so far is limited and few concrete partnerships between companies have been announced.

"Consumers will want to build their new systems step by step. The task we have as leaders of the industry is to create interoperability and we are working with our biggest competitors to create open standards," Philips CEO Gerard Kleisterlee said in a separate presentation.

"The industry should reach a consensus," Yun said.

Samsung and Philips were echoing what Sony Corp. President and Chief Operating Officer Kunitake Ando said at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January.

Samsung wants IT vendors to work with other industries: IT is at the heart of convergence, but IT companies can't make it happen alone. They are disconnected from the market, trying to push home databases and online entertainment, while customers want home security and health management, Yun said.

"IT companies lack experience and competencies regarding digital convergence, they must reorient from a technology to a customer focus," he said. "We need to create various open networks that can work as a springboard for growth. The future is not to be predicted, but to be created. By working together to create the future, the future will be ours faster."

Samsung will be part of open initiatives, Yun said, but on the other hand will seek to own key parts of the technologies that enable convergence.

Besides working on standards, the industry should also lobby governments to enable convergence, Yun said. A mobile phone company should be allowed to handle financial transactions, for example. In South Korea, Samsung's home, mobile phone users can pay for mass transit and for goods in convenience stores with their phones, but billing must be handled by credit card companies, not the phone companies, according to Yun.

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