The MID Defined (Sort Of)
A mobile Internet device is a palm-sized computer that connects to a wireless network (via mobile broadband or Wi-Fi) and is small enough to slip into your pants pocket while still maintaining the ability to deliver a full computing experience. As we said before, some might call the new Apple iPad a MID, but we think its 9.7-inch display makes it a tablet. Although Intel has established general guidelines as to what constitutes a MID (an Atom processor, pocket-sized dimensions, 3G/4G mobile broadband), the lack of universal agreement for this category’s definition makes it somewhat difficult to define.
“A MID is a mobile Internet device with Web connectivity,” said Ken Lee, vice president of sales and marketing for Viliv. “We see MIDs as being more than smart phones and having bigger screens than the typical PDA form.”
In fact, Lee sees one of the most popular handheld computing and entertainment devices—the iPod touch—as a mainstream MID, even though it doesn’t fit Intel’s rigid guidelines. However, this device’s MID-ness is a point of contention because it lacks Flash support.
Despite their functional similarity to netbooks, MIDs are differentiated by their small size; after all, a netbook can’t fit into your pocket. MIDs typically feature 5- to 7-inch displays, which also separates them from smartbooks, a new mobile PC category designed with 7- to 10-inch displays. Although the term MID is relatively new, the types of computing devices that fall into this category are not.
“The predecessor to the MID was the UMPC, or ultra-mobile PC,” said Douglas Krone, founder and CEO of Dynamism, a popular import electronics retailer. “It promised a rich Internet and mobile PC experience, but the battery life was too short and CPU too weak.”
The modern MID certainly offers more value than its UMPC forefathers like the OQO model 01+. Dynamism stocks devices such as the 7-inch Viliv X70, which weighs a featherweight 1.5 pounds (UMPCs were typically 2 pounds or more) and is capable of delivering nearly 6 hours of endurance (UMPCs averaged 2 to 3 hours). The biggest difference between the two platforms is price: UMPCs generally started at $1,000 or more, while MIDs can be purchased for under $1,000. The 4.8-inch UMID mbook M1 (1.33-GHz Intel Atom Z520 CPU, 512MB of RAM, 8GB SSD, pictured), for example, can be bought for $499. Krone attributes many of these innovations to the Intel Atom processor, which packs enough power for cloud computing without significantly draining the battery.