MIDs get the squeeze from smartphones and netbooks

Mobile Internet Devices, once considered the hot new thing for 2009 have a big problem - no market.

By Jim Barthold

Somewhere along the way to becoming the hot consumer devices of 2009,  Mobile Internet Devices (MIDs) got pushed off the table and onto the floor by bigger, more powerful smartphones and smaller, less powerful netbooks.

"There's a squeeze going on to the MID category. Smartphones are getting smarter and maybe bigger and the whole category of netbook computers, the small computers are getting smaller and cheaper," said Jeff Cove, vice president of technology and alliances for Panasonic North America. "Every manufacturer is looking at this (MID) category to find out if there is a set of features and functions that differentiate it enough as a category to make it worthwhile to make it a product."

The simplest explanation of what happened to the MID is that it became a technology without a market, at least in the U.S.

"Intel and Qualcomm (the two biggest chip supporters of the mobile Internet device) were accused of trying to create a device category for their technology that no one was really asking for," said Kevin Burden, practice director for ABI Research. "From a smartphone standpoint we knew that we wanted a better Internet experience but what we wanted was either better smartphones or something else. Intel and Qualcomm followed the something else and decided it's MIDs but it hasn't really taken off."

What's taken off is smarter smartphones such as the new BlackBerry devices and, of course, the iPhone and netbooks. Netbooks are particularly popular with business-savvy computer users.

"It's your overnight bag. This is what you take with you when you don't necessarily want to carry all this stuff...and it lets you stay connected," said Paul Moore, senior director of mobile product management at Fujitsu.

For those who want something that fits in your pocket and still lets you stay connected, Moore likes the iPhone.

"Even though that screen is tiny it has the ability to manipulate the information in such a user-friendly way it's a pleasant experience. That is a good example of a mobile Internet device," Moore said.

Screen size, of course, matters. A MID screen is defined as five to seven inches, big enough to watch videos and other Web-based material but small enough to fit in an oversized pocket. The thing is, a device that size still isn't a small computer, it's a big smartphone or PDA and the user still has to lug around a heavy laptop to do many of the things that the Internet encourages. As a little bigger device with just a little more weight, a netbook can do it all and can even, in a pinch, be a phone.

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