Why MIDs Make No Sense
Accessing the Internet on a mobile device makes sense. But the category of Mobile Internet Devices (or MIDs) being pioneered by Intel makes as much sense as pushing the elevator button multiple times in hopes that it will arrive faster. A market saturated with smart phones and affordable, portable netbooks just doesn’t have room for “tweener” devices like MIDs. Intel defines a MID as “the Internet experience in your pocket,” adding that it has solid mobile performance, strong wireless connectivity, and long battery life. Using the current Silverthorne class of Atom processors, Intel has gotten both cell phone and notebook vendors to start making MIDs, which are not as small as smart phones but not as large as netbooks either. Companies like Lenovo, LG, OQO, Clarion, BenQ and others are starting to ship Wi-Fi–enabled devices (WiMAX and 3G are promised) that are a bit larger than the size of a GPS navigators (with about 4.5-7 inch displays) but cost north of $600. Think souped-up PDA, like the dated HP iPAQ. Many of them run full operating systems like Windows XP and even Vista, but others run slimmed-down Linux OSes. (Intel is hoping Moblin becomes the Linux platform of choice.) Still not sure what MIDs are? MIDs are meant to be different from smart phones in that they intended to have specific connected purposes. Intel told us that some MIDs will focus on navigation, others on multimedia (watching movies and listening to music), and a large selection on productivity (checking e-mail and reviewing PowerPoint slides, for example). But the driving force behind them all is Internet connectivity. Do consumers really want to carry around different devices for different tasks? Unless you’re big on parachute pants, it’s not the most convenient solution. And can’t you do all those things with a $199 smart phone? Applications like Google Maps and TeleNav turn your phone into a GPS navigator, and people are ditching their point-and-shoot cameras for phones like the Samsung Memoir, which sports an 8-megapixel camera. Devices that can do it all make a lot more sense than ones that do a specific task really well. Isn’t this why iPhones and Blackberrys get more popular every day? If you feel restricted by the small size of your phone, you can get along fine with a more powerful $399 netbook. Is there really room for a $500 machine that may specialize in doing one thing really well, but costs more than the average budget computer with a bigger screen and more comfortable keyboard? When it comes to getting the Internet on a mobile device, there’s a reverse Goldilocks principle at work. Instead of a MID being the “just-right” size for users who want to browse the Web on the go, the market is split between devices that are amazingly small, like the iPhone, or bigger with greater functionality, like a netbook. There just isn’t room for a middle-of-the-road device, at least not for the average consumer. So will MIDs take off? Not in their current form and price range. Perhaps wealthy individuals and businesses trying fill very particular needs will purchase MIDs, but generally speaking, people are content with their smart phones and laptops. Whether she’s roaming the streets of Taiwan or burning up the phone lines, LAPTOP News Editor Joanna Stern is responsible for getting the scoop on the latest must-have mobile gadgets. Her Notebook Diva column appears on Tuesdays and you can follow her on Twitter.