Will Americans Bite?
Between the proliferation of netbooks and smart phones, it may be difficult for the MID category to break through, but that hasn’t stopped manufacturers such as Archos, BenQ, Dell (pictured), Samsung, Sharp, UMID, Viliv, and others from ramping up production. According to data collected by analyst firm ABI Research, 1 million MIDs shipped in 2009, which is a dramatic improvement from the 30,000 shipped in 2008 (ABI mostly agrees with Intel’s MID definition, but it may shift as technologies change).
Still, of all the MIDs that headed to retail worldwide in 2009, only 15 percent are shipped to North American shores. MIDs are currently seeing much higher demand in the Asia-Pacific region, where the category netted 44 percent of total worldwide MID shipments last year. Countries such as Japan have a greater number of early adopters than the U.S., while China and other emerging markets prefer one multifunction device over many. Cultural differences also come into play.
“Some Asian cultures have long commutes, and they don’t use cell phones; it’s a stigma to do so when you’re crammed into transportation with other people,” said Jeff Orr, senior analyst of mobile devices for ABI Research. “Instead they read blogs, online papers, and catch up on their favorite celebrities on their MIDs.” Most Americans, on the other hand, drive to work, and don’t necessarily crave a MID-like device to pass the time.
Viliv’s Lee, however, anticipates rising MID interest in the U.S., especially in the under-30 crowd looking for a device that can be used for Internet and navigation capabilities on the go. “The younger demographic wants a highly portable all-in-one device,” said Lee. “They don’t want to carry multiple devices or sacrifice functionality, so MIDs may capture their attention.”