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MIDs: Just getting started or dead in the water?

MIDs: Just getting started or dead in the water?

Is the Mobile Internet Device dead? Or, to put it another way, has the pocket-sized MID – a ‘net-connected device that’s usually described as being bigger than a smartphone and smaller than a netbook – ever actually caught on?

Is the Mobile Internet Device dead? Or, to put it another way, has the pocket-sized MID – a ‘net-connected device that’s usually described as being bigger than a smartphone and smaller than a netbook – ever actually caught on?

The answer to these questions is a bit complicated, and depends on whom you talk to and how they define the category. According to some, the MID is far from dead – in fact, they say, it’s thriving.

Gartner, for instance, considers Apple’s iPhone and iPod Touch to be examples of MIDs, even though the iPhone is more commonly called a smartphone. Considering that those two Apple devices have been fabulously successful, selling 50 million units globally in less than three years, the MID category looks quite healthy indeed. Gartner also considers e-readers that are connected to the Internet (like the Amazon Kindle) to be MIDs.

But other MIDs have struggled to carve out a niche in the mobile device market, and some, like the muchhyped OQO device, which failed before they even got off the ground. With a troubled past, is there any future for this “tweener” product category?

MID origins, and an early casualty The name MID has been around at least five years, and seems to have first been popularised by Intel, which has heavily invested in the MID concept and showed off several MID prototypes powered by its Atom processor in January 2009 at its sprawling displays at the International CES show.

During his CES keynote, Intel chairman, Craig Barrett, demoed the OQO model 2+, a MID that was to have been available in the first half of 2009 for $US999. Sporting a 5-inch touch-screen with a slide-out 58-key physical keyboard, it would run an Intel Atom processor, have up to 60GB of storage and run Windows Vista or XP.

But it never happened. OQO, founded in San Francisco in 2000, closed its doors earlier this year without shipping the model 2+. Few people are willing to speculate on why OQO failed, but Gartner analyst, Van Baker, said OQO devices came with physical keyboards that were too small for users wanting to type long documents.

And the device was marketed as “pocketable,” but at 6.5 inches on its longest side, it was too big to slide into most pockets.

“It fell into what I call a dead zone,” Baker said, noting that devices with screens between 12.5cm and 22.5cm (5 inches and 9 inches) diagonally don’t perform well in the market.

What’s more, the $999 OQO model 2+ was to have come with a full-blown Windows operating system in a small package, which evidently led some potential buyers to realise they’d prefer a fullsized Windows laptop for that much money or less, with a keyboard at least 90 per cent of full size, not 25 per cent, analysts said.

“With notebooks at $399, why would anybody spend hundreds more for OQO to do basically the same thing?” principal analyst at J. Gold Associates, Jack Gold, said. “The OQO was a great case of a product looking for a market, and one where designers built it because they could.”


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