Last call for MIDs, Intel

Posted on 12 September 2008 by

That’s the feeling I have right now as we head into the Christmas marketing season where there’s an iPhone 3G, 2nd-gen iPod touch, New Archos PMP’s, Opera Mobile 9.5 on multiple devices and Google Android ready to go.

What’s the delay? Did Intel and partners simply go for the instant cash and switch resources to Netbooks (a very worrying long-term strategy in low-margin devices) or are they having a more serious problem – getting the software ready. If that’s their problem then they lose their trump card. X86 is supposed to be an easy platform to work with right? Maybe not when there’s total chaos in the Linux world as everyone scrambles to become the de-facto mobile distro and Intel cant even decide whether to control the core or the complete stack and appear to have no interest in solving the Linux application distribution problem. The missing app-store really could be the missing link.

So if Intel and their partners don’t get the devices out in the next 8 weeks, what is there to look forward to? For customers, its a bright picture. For Intel and their ecosystem, not. An Apple event in Jan. Nvidia Tigra in 2009. TI’s OMAP platform. Windows Mobile 7. and more. Where’s that M528, The Benq MID, Toshiba, Samsung or in fact, any of the 33 MIDs that I have on launch-watch. Apart from the Aigo MID that is available in Asia and a few UMPCs that have adopted the Silverthorne/Poulsbo platform, there’s nothing.

Maybe I’m just sad at seeing Toshiba, Samsung and BenQ all announce Netbooks for launch this season when people have been talking about their MIDs for 6 months or more. Or maybe I’m just saying ‘it’s not going to happen’ in the hope that it will invoke some form of Murphys Law that magically makes the MIDs appear, but when you look at the history and the path that lays ahead, its difficult not to get the feeling that time is running out for Intel’s MID ecosystem. I really wonder how many of those 33 will make it to market. I think we’ll have a good idea at the end of October so lets schedule the next MID summary for then. Something tells me we’ll be talking about CES.

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45 Comments For This Post

  1. ChristophD says:

    Very well said! Frankly speaking I was never quite convinced by Inte’s concept of a MID platform and this might just turn out to be somewhat of a DOA situation.

  2. arcturus says:

    These devices got killed by smart phones from Nokia, Htc, Blackberry and others. For this line to survive it needs to focus on Windows compatibility and big reduction in price.

    Oh! and make the devices available.

  3. chippy says:

    I dont agree at all with the Windows compatibility statement there and I dont particularly think we’re talking about a market that extends into smartphone territory at the moment. MIDs should be a consumer targeted device and need to kept so with a tight focus on always-connected internet, high-end media and pocketable size. Its a device that needs to target the ipods and PMPs, not the smartphone market. That comes in 2010 with Moorestown.

  4. Robert says:


    Steve looks like Netbooks and the starting of the school season has stolen the show from MIDS.
    Would you buy a 4.5 inch MID for $350-$400 or would you buy a 10 inch MSI Wind for the same price.

    To win over customers MIDS have to have a WOW feature and be priced below $300 US.
    Personally for me include an Intel Atom CPU at 1.3 ghz and Windows XP Lite OS for about $300US, and I’ll buy a dozen.
    This very doable.

    Regards Robert

  5. chippy says:

    I would definitely buy a mid over a netbook. I dont need a netbook, I do need a MID! I’m happy to pay $600 for something with 3G as long as it has a nice UI, does HQ video and HQ internet! Its about the same price as high-end smartphones.

    I dont think Netbooks stole the show as its a different market, I just think that netbooks stole the resources to get the devices out, produce the Silverthorne and Poulsbo chips and market the darn things!


  6. Dukeswharf says:

    Same here. I don’t see the need to have to fire up a notebook/PC just to access 3 lines of an email or one line of a twit message, it makes no sense.

    The ‘WOW factor’ that Robert mentioned I believe has started with the Archos 5 and will be even more so when the Tegra 600 series, 650 especially, is released, the Tegra APX being released by the end of this year.


  7. pablo_paul says:

    I just bought an aspire one for my girl friend and i think that screen is the smallest you can go anything smaller is just a pain to work with.

    The majority of people who are on the road use between a 12.1 to 15.4 screen you can’t rock up to a customer and ask to borrow a screen to plug your mid into so you can see the thing so where’s the market?

    The consumer market as you rightly say has jumped on the netbook the reason being it does any thing the majority of people want and it’s dirt cheap.

    So where’s the market other than for tech geeks like us? we are still in the minority.

  8. chippy says:

    Converged PMP and Internet tablet market. Consumer/fun oriented and as mentioned by Dukeswarf, it seems to have started with the new Archos devices.

  9. Fixup says:

    While some and I love MID and things like Everun Notes alike, I have to admit: we’re minority. 99.99% people will go netbooks like the Eee PC.

    If MID can be used as a phone, it might get a 1% market. If it cannot run Windows, its market is 0.01%.

  10. chippy says:

    I agree we’re talking about a relatively small market but I think we’re talking a magnitude more than UMPCS (not difficult, I realise!) if they can just crack the UI and provide that PMP-like experience. Even putting Internet as a secondary feature if it means being able to market them.


  11. fixup says:

    MID is running into a unresolvable logic: if people want a MID over a smartphone only because they want to run Windows applications; however, Windows OS (XP/Vista) does not support phone functions (always on like smartphones). Don’t expect people to carry a smartphone and a MID.

    Until MS or Intel can come out an OS that can run full-blow Windows apps (such as MatLab and Quickbooks) and also does smartphone functions (such as push email), MID is already failed. I cannot see such an OS to be out in the next 10 years.

    I have a very simple solution: just clip a tiny cell phone to the body of a MID like a fax machine. This tiny phone needs only a very small battery as it gets charged from the MID battery when clipped. It is also a modem for for the MID when clipped on. If extractable wires are used, this phone does not even need battery. I think this is the only way to make MID successful.

  12. SamLazy says:

    Windows support phone functions since dial-up modem time. Up to voice recognition.

  13. fixup says:

    It cannot detect an incoming phone call or pushed email during standby. You have to turn Windows XP/Vista on all the time, then battery will run out in 3 hours or so.

  14. fab says:

    maybe there was actually never a huge market for MIDs, we just hoped too much, or still do.

    the M528 or others are really nice and great devices – on paper. smartphones, or rather pocket pc/communicators are growing, just have a look at the soon coming HTC Touch HD which has a nice screen, is pocketable, has power and IS a phone as well…these devices (including iphone) do steal the show! 99.99% does NOT know what a MID is…but everybody knows eee or iphone. that’s the market and why would canonical bother spending money to make ubuntu mid popular if nobody cares anyway? i never bought anything until now because i have a concept: real computer power is provided by a good notebook or a desktop. a netbook does greatly the first part of its name. and i want a SMALL all-in-one device that CAN do all, but it does not have to do it full power, but is portable and i don’t need a second bag for it – there comes the M528. so, powerful pc plus mid…though now chippy ruined ( :-) ) my concept with the everun! so..confuse me again. but again, where i was the remaining 0.01% interested in a MID…it might be gone too…

  15. IG says:

    You brought up a good point. Where are all the MIDs actually? …especially the Gigabyte one….anyway….I needed a new toy to play with so I just bought myself a used Nokia N800. I heard good things about the device, and I like its size. First thing I will do is update to OS2008.

    ….maybe in a year or so a worthwhile MID will actually be available…and by then the newer ATOM processors will be less power draining.

  16. Dukeswharf says:

    “Don’t expect people to carry a smartphone and a MID.Don’t expect people to carry a smartphone and a MID.”

    That’s exactly what I and number of other people I know intend to do. In fact most people carry mulitple ddevies already, i.e. their mobile/smart phone and their laptops.

    In fact I intend to carry around an Archos 5g, Nokia 85 or Samsung i8510 smartphone and an Everun Note.

    When the NVIDIA Tegra 650 devices, preferably running RayGun Navigator (, becomes available this will allow me the option to carry two devices instead of the three.


  17. fixup says:

    People around here of course carry multiple devices, but I was talking about 99.99% of the people on this earth. It makes sense to carry a phone and a laptop but it does not make any sense to carry a smartphone and a MID, unless the MID can run full-blow Windows.

  18. says:

    funny thing is that i have a sneaky feeling that the ability to run full windows is overrated…

  19. Matt says:

    I agree. “Full windows” is not a requirement. Full featured applications that work well with MID UIs are.

    The way I see it is the MID is device slightly ahead of it’s time. The iPhone is really going to get people used to having phone, internet (such as it is), and a platform for other powerful applications. Once people get a feeling for the kinds of things they could be doing with a more powerful device, something like a MID will make a lot of sense.

    The question in my mind is will the iphone and smartphone type devices rise to meet the challenge or will MIDs be ready and waiting.

  20. chippy says:

    It feels like a lovely family of like-minded 0.01%’ers here and thats great! I’ll be carrying a smartphone and either a MID or Everun-note-that-hasnt-got-a-category like device.

  21. dbzeag says:

    I don’t think MIDs have anything more than a phone except for screen.

    Internet connectivity at VGA resolution, mp3 playback, $300. AND phone functionality. Smartphone wins.

    The only thing interesting in the MID ideal is the Pandora anymore. Recompile/run Android or Unbuntu Mobile Embedded edition (which comes with Pidgin or any other chat program) + OpenOffice for productivity + any format media playback through mplayer or VLC player + game control pads on the unit + 800×480 resolution + 10 hour battery life (has been proven with wifi enabled) + $330 price tag.

    As far as I am concerned, that is the only MID that is even remotely close to the current needs and wow-factor over a smartphone.

  22. chippy says:

    “I don’t think MIDs have anything more than a phone except for screen.

    Internet connectivity at VGA resolution, mp3 playback, $300. AND phone functionality. Smartphone wins.”

    I would like to challenge that. The 5″ screen is the BIG differentiator. It enables tabletop video viewing and 30cm full-screen internet experience. I’m not saying that everyone wants this but just as people go for Archos 605’s or UMPCs, there’s a big enough market out there to justify product developement and marketing.

    330 is not really possible with 3G at the moment (it’s needed) but it will come. There’s no doubt about that. No doubt at all.

  23. Dukeswharf says:

    NVIDIA Tegra HD Video Demo:

    Nvidia Tegra HD Mobile Phone:

    You won’t, as of yet, get this experince on a smartphone. As Chippy mentioned the screen size is the big differentiator.

  24. Vakeros says:

    I have to agree with dbzeag. Chippy mentions a 5″ screen as the differentiator. You can already get 5″ screen smartphones. I would rather go with an Advantage than an M528. BT headsets are still taking off, but holding any phone up to your head is going to look so out of date soon, just as holding a brick to your head looks now! Especially with the need for safety of handsfree driving, people also prefer handsfree walking, cycling and everything else they do. This means leaving the phone in your pocket to answer a call will become the norm. Also you now can get the same 800×480 res. on some phones, which means it covers the PMP angle.
    True, Pocket PCs (smartphones – I hate that term) still aren’t there yet, but neither are MIDs.

  25. dbzeag says:

    Pandora will have Skype ported over. USB 3G adapter subsidized by the carrier for under $50, job done. It has almost 5″ screen and is not much larger than an iPhone. $330 + $50 for the adapter, if you need it.

    what I would like to see, however, is something the size of a Zaurus or Pandora will the full ability to type (thumb ok) for email, chatting, light gaming like Bejeweled or something, reading Adobe documents and Office documents, and a media player and bluetooth with GPS capabilities.

    I would carry this device as well as the smallest and simplest (read: featureless) phone with bluetooth to tether for those rare occasions I need to sync email when I am not at a wifi-enabled location.

    If I can have two devices, that’s what I want. You don’t need a MID-like device AND a smartphone; there is too much functionality that is duplicated. Netbooks are too big and cumbersome when on public transport or on vacation seeing sites to use. A pocketable device like I mentioned and a phone for the sole purpose of what it was invented to do (place and receive phone calls) would be ideal.

    As long as whatever OS and application combination can open and modify .xls or .doc documents or Outlook email contacts or playback .mp3 or .mov, it doesn’t matter if it is XP or Linux.

    If I can only carry one (because that’s just easier) I would choose the iPhone today. It includes all of that functionality on a screen that is just a bit too small and office functionality that is a bit lacking, but it is the closest thing available today.

  26. Realtor says:

    I think the question to ask is “Why have Netbooks taken off?” There is no reason that the inexpensive guts used in Netbooks could not find themselves in UMPC evenually. I think the answer lies in the user interface of XP or Vista. Netbooks look and act like mini laptops, so people understand them and know how to use them out of the box. XP and Vista were never designed for intensive touch screen navigation however in my opinion that is the best method of using a 4 to 7″ screen device.

    If I want to zoom a web site on a 5 inch screen, I presently have two options. Move the mouse to the area of interest, left click, wait for the drop down list, scroll to the zoom command, right click. Or I can but my two fingers on either side of the screen and make the magic gesture.

    I think the thing holding back UMPCs and MIDs is the operating system user interface.

  27. says:

    we have a winner! ;)

  28. fab says:

    that’s why in the phone “department” the UI is the most important thing! see iphone user interface and the HTC touch3D interface. HTC uses windows mobile, the same old windows mobile as it was. they made a fantastic UI on top of it and there you go. the UI of a MID HAS to go in the same direction because is just not possible to use fingers and eyes for those small icons and menu styles which ARE designed for bigger screens.

  29. Woadan says:

    Intel never delivered their version of the UMPC, and now they aren’t delivering on the MID…

    Well, they did deliver an OLPC competitor…



  30. Realtor says:

    Thanks “Turn Self Off”.

    All is not lost for UMPCs. Yes, manufactures have to address the limitations of the Windows UI however alturnatives may be near by. RIM is coming out with the Thunder/Storm all screen phone and there is Googles Operating System too. These UIs may unleash the UMPC potential.

    More likely it will come from Apple. They now manufacture everything from an IPhone to 20+ inch screen Macs. They are bending the UI to meet the needs of the device, not mutating the device to meet the needs of the Windows UI. An Apple UMPC running their touch screen interface and Office for Mac could be the killer combo of the future.

  31. Dukeswharf says:


    An Apple UMPC!?! Hell no!! There’ll be no MMS, no cut & paste, ad verbatum..and I’ll be tied into a service contract with one of Steve’s buddy companies, for 6 years! :)

    As has been mentioned earlier I don’t think trying to squeeze XP/Vista onto an UMPC is the way to go. I would be more interested in an OS that enabled me to concentrate on specific tasks:

    1. Push Email
    2. Music listening supporting mp3,aac etc etc
    3. Film Viewing (HD 720 and 1080) supporting all the usual formats
    4. Imaging
    5. Ability to create documents offline using something like OpenOffice and online using something like Zoho.
    6. GPS functionality supporting assisted turn by turn directioning.

    In terms of battery life I think people really need to pay attention to what Nvidia are doing with their Tegra devices, which using a whopping 1 and bit watts, do everything, and more, that current Atom based systems can do!

  32. Dukeswharf says:

    More Tegra videos:

  33. Dukeswharf says:

    I think Nvidia has hit a home run with the Tegra APX UI:,item,1973718350.aspx

  34. Dukeswharf says:

    Last one, I promise :)

  35. tjs says:

    Building Linux software stack for x86 compatible mobile device is extremely easy:

    1) take Ubuntu as basis: it has the biggest package repository there is, so you never need to do more than apt-get install to get any software
    2) add drivers to support the new hardware components
    3) take Matchbox+Gnome+Hildon UI from Nokia N8x0: they’ve already optimized for the form factor

    This was Intel’s first approach. But then they saw the lost potential in the powerful hardware and the success of OpenGL accelerated UI on the iPhone made them to make a sharp turn. Instead of just customizing existing software they started to write their *own* UI framework which is not an easy task. Just recently they acquired OpenedHand (home of the Clutter-project) to help.

    I cannot understand scrapping Ubuntu though. Standardizing on single distro would have helped the compatibility between vendors and Canonical seemed to be enthusiastic about MIDs too.

  36. chippy says:

    Thats the east part, then you have the difficult job of tailoring all apps to look good with the same UI and then making the UI and finger access layer. That where it gets very hard.
    You do not want a horrible xcalc popping up otherwise you have something as shocking as the Xperia and HTC Touch whenyou get to the core WM apps.
    The other very very difficult bit is 3rd party app distribution and even just seeding 3rd party apps in a controled way.

    I think we all agree that software and UI is critically important.

    These delays, if caused by software issues, show that having an X86 core may not be the advantage that Intel thinks it is.

  37. tjs says:

    For the basic apps Nokia seemed to do pretty decent job. It is not too hard to modify gnome apps for touch screen device. Maemo project has a bunch of community provided ports and original apps at some have good usability, some don’t.

    The maemo site is also an example on how one can handle 3rd party apps. However the usual linux way would be integrating them into the distribution! This is very different mindset and I’m not sure if people not involved with linux can actually appreciate the idea fully… When using e.g. Ubuntu on desktop PC you get all “3rd party” apps from the distro. And basically they should all be tested and integrated into the system as a whole. The selection of software is enormous: about 25000 different packages on Ubuntu repos right now. I don’t need to go outside the distro for my software needs and I like to think myself as quite a demanding user.

    Being based on ARM Nokia does not have the benefit of sourcing from existing distro. Of course, if all GUI based apps need to be tailored due to UI issues, there is not so much benefit in relying to existing distro anyway.

    One can build basic N8x0 look-alike software stack from existing components in couple of weeks. Intel is aiming higher with their UI plans but I don’t believe the current lack of MIDs is about software at all… Maybe vendors still lack trust in bigger success of UMPC-like device categories?

  38. Dukeswharf says:

    “These delays, if caused by software issues, show that having an X86 core may not be the advantage that Intel thinks it is.”


    As very aptly described by Jen-Hsun Huang, CEO of NVIDIA, “disruptive technologies tend to come from the bottom”:

  39. Realtor says:

    I think I agree with Dukewwharf. I can be happy without Windows as long as I get the following. The full Internet experience. Email and IMs. Video and picture viewing. Finally some way to open and view Word and Excel docs in an easy to use and navigate UI on a small screen. (Ya Apple missed the boat on some of this.) Personally I am waiting to see what RIMs Storm looks like. (Due 11/15/05 at Verizon.) That or something like it may be all the UMPC I ever need. I will keep my laptop with its touch typing for the serious work.

  40. Crastic says:

    I’m sorry but as I see it, MID’s are almost unnecessary. The iPhone, or even the iPod Touch *can* fill the subtle needs of the consumer or enterprise. If it’s not already available, it will be. I can already VNC from mine, surf anything but Flash, use any web based communications service (Twitter, Forums, TRAC, Bugzilla), even use IRC if I cared to. The *only* thing missing is IM, and everyone’s well aware that’s coming. Word/PDF viewing, it’s not something I care to do, but there are a hand full of viewer apps already.

    A mere $229 and a reasonable Wifi router later, and you have an infrastructure.

    I’ll take a Netbook though. :D

  41. Crastic says:

    I suppose in a way, the Pandora is also a MID, just not a ‘true Intel’ MID. But still it’s small, lightweight, features great battery life, touch screen, WIFI and Bluetooth, dual SD cards, and it runs Linux. If they can actually manufacture the machine (and release it) in reasonable quantities, why would you want anything else?

  42. Dukeswharf says:

    If anything will make the Pandora fail it will be its design. Technically speaking its a sound device but the design is much to be desired.

  43. dbzeag says:

    What about the design is flawed? The controls?

  44. Dukeswharf says:

    As a business centric person having a device with joysticks/pads on it is a non starter, I have abosultely no need for them.

  45. zak says:

    its intresting but i dont know about that keyboard. maybe kind of cramped for what i need.

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