Why buy a MID?

Posted on 08 September 2008 by

An interesting article over at PCMag.com has author Tim Bajarin asking “Who would want to buy a Mobile Internet Device?”. Throughout the article, Tim explains that he doesn’t quite see the function of a MID, or how it might fit a consumer’s needs.

After reading the article, I think this is another example of how over-defining a category can confuse consumers, and even those who closely follow news in the market. This is another question of who is defining what, but it really comes down to what the consumers think. Tim says that MIDs are trying to fit into a product class gap that isn’t really large enough. He describes the MID category as a ‘tweener’, or something that is in between two already well defined device categories. In the case of the MID, Tim says the flanking devices are the laptop and smartphone.

But I’m still not convinced that the MID as defined today will ever become a booming market. All of the virtues of a MID actually ended up in smartphones, which became the killer mobile category.

If you really think about it, Tim seems to be saying that MIDs are just phone-less smartphones. But what about those with WWAN? If a MID can make a VoIP call over WWAN, is it then a smartphone? It would seem as though MIDs are moving in the direction of smartphones, but are more powerful, and share more of their genes with the computer. With full fledged applications, a stronger web browsing experience, and the ability to make calls (via WWAN), it sounds like the MID is actually a much more capable device than the smart phone.

I find it interesting that Tim mentions his iPhone in the article as his go-to mobile device. I actually consider the iPhone to be, not only a MID, but one of the best MIDs currently on the market (partially helped by the fact that most MIDs haven’t hit the market yet!). The fact that the iPhone offers a much richer and fuller internet experience than most other smartphones (if you want to call it that) bumps it up from the smartphone category and into the Mobile Internet Device (in my opinion). The iPhone is almost the inverse of a smartphone; it isn’t a phone that happens to be able to browse the internet, it is a Mobile Internet Device that happens to be able to make phone calls.

In a time such as now where most smartphones aren’t exactly the best convergence devices, touting around a very powerful MID for internet consumption, and a decent feature phone, sounds like a good strategy to me. And what say you readers, why would you buy a MID?

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51 Comments For This Post

  1. reverendo says:

    it sounds like you are defining as a PDA-phone without instant on… anything better and more powerful than that would be a UMPC and not a MID IMHO

  2. reverendo says:

    it sounds like you are defining MID as a PDA-phone without instant on… anything better and more powerful than that would be a UMPC and not a MID IMHO

  3. internet4me says:

    I want a full x86 PC and full internet in my hand no matter where I am.

  4. kyuss says:

    me too! :-D

  5. turn.self.off says:

    i have enough of a internet in my pocket, thank you.

    i keep finding that while fun to watch, videos contain less useful info pr byte then still images and text do.

    hell, if you want to really get good info out of a video, you more or less hover the pointer over the pause button anyways to stop playback the moment something interesting comes into view.

    but then i rarely if never watch tv any more so…

  6. TareX says:

    I agree with the MID article. I see no point to them, in the presence of smartphones and UMPCs/netbooks.

    The iPhone, you say is an MID. Well it is also a GSM phone. This isn’t something the iPhone can do “on the side”, it’s a basic function. The PSP can make VOIP calls, so can my desktop. They can’t be considered as reliable phones though.

    The article was talking about pure MIDs, not something like the iPhone. Who would want to carry around a phone, MID, and maybe through an iPod/Zune in the mix? Smartphones have replaced almost everything. I do however see the point of netbooks, esp the likes of the Everun note, which should have its own Super Ultra Portable category.

    But yeah MIDs are a complete FAIL in function and price. iPhone is… a phone with MID functionality.

  7. ben says:

    Just to make it clear, there are multiple authors on this site : )

  8. reverendo says:

    I stand corrected
    just noted that it wasn’t chippy’s article… well, ben, I do believe that a good PDA-phone (sth like the glofiish X800 or similar) is better than an MID. it has no booting process (therefor instant on) and anything more powerful would deserve to be a umpc and not a mid.
    just my two cents

  9. Vakeros says:

    Having read the article in full – Tim Bajarin is a bit confused. I state this because he calls the Samsung Q1 a MID!! Now either the definition isn’t clear to him or most of us haven’t got it right. He is however correct to call it a tweener. He has an iPhone and an iPod Touch. Well he should drop the Touch and get a MID. It can have all the functionality of one, plus FIE (Full Internet Experience). Or maybe he needs to wait for Apple to make one/develop the Touch into becoming one.

  10. Vakeros says:

    Just to note I have never had an iPod Touch. Just reading up on the website now for it – it seems that it is a MID. So Tim Bajarin who claims he has no need for a MID has one!!!
    This must mean that his article is actually questioning the need for a UMPC, and specifically the need for consumers to have one – as opposed to certain types of business for which he can see the need.

  11. turn.self.off says:

    the funny thing about the ipod touch is that its a iphone without the gsm and bluetooth radios.

    if they had stuffed a bluetooth radio in there but skipped the gsm, it would be a direct competitor of the nokia N800…

    and whats the most requested feature for a upgrade to the nokia tablet line? a mobile network radio.

    i give up…

  12. aehouseman says:

    Show me a smart phone that I can type rapidly into using 10 fingers, and read a full 8 and 1/2 inch page width on the screen, and I will forget about MIDs/Mini 9s.

    And by the way, Michael Dell is quoted as saying that telecommunication companies have been subsidising phones for a long time, and that they will start subsidising small computers and also the Mini 9 has a built in socket for an internal phone card.

    The Dell Inspiron Mini 9 is of a new genre that will carve out a place in the market, and in doing so will take the place of many of the old notebook computers, and while it won’t take the place of all that many cell phones, it will absorb a lot of the smart features that have been added to those phones, and I see less smart phones, and more regular phones and less of the old style notebooks, and more and more MIDs/UMPCS or more specifically devices like the Mini 9, Asus eees, etc.

  13. arcturus says:

    Opposite direction for me.

    After I got my Nokia N810 to work as I wanted my Asus R2H umpc is collecting dust at home.

    MID over umpc? thats easy: a interface designed for mobility. Not Windows cramped into a small screen and small hardware.

  14. Vakeros says:

    It seems obvious to me that a MID is basically a cut down UMPC. Its aim is to be a SMALL, INTERNET-BROWSING device (and for consumers to buy it has to be cheap.) It then has other functions chucked in. If you want a full x86 OS functionality then you are talking UMPC. This is also meant to be SMALL and will have INTERNET-BROWSING but it is also meant to do a whole lot more, which is why people want decent keyboards on them.
    A smartphone (or Pocket PC) is a phone which has other functions added. Personally I want a UMPC which has the ability to make voice calls (and VOIP doesn’t do it for me yet!) The problem with my wants is that
    a) There is one available yet – Willcom D4 and Everun Note seem to come closest.
    b) It will be expensive – I would want to buy it though a contract which also offers a data plan.

    In the UK all the mobile phone operators are giving away laptops with their £30 a month data offerings. Only one I think is offering a netbook on a cheaper plan. Soon, when there marketing guys get with it, they will be offering netbooks and hopefully soon after MIDs and UMPCs.
    As long as they get their revenue stream I’m sure they will be happy whatever device people use.
    I classify the iPhone, and others with the new browser experience as Pocket PCs (you might call them smartphones.) This is because their primary function is as a phone. The iPod Touch is a MID. I think the word MID stuck because it is MIDway between a smartphone and a UMPC (lacking the complete functionality of either.)
    This leaves you with two main types of people.
    Those who want a basic phone and a MID, and those who want a fully capable smartphone. I am of the second group, but I understand why some would be of the first. (Though as I wrote earlier – give me a UMPC which is also a phone and lasts long enough battery wise for both and I would ditch the smartphone.)

  15. tal says:

    Pocketable devices should be used mostly for making a call. Whatever call, whether voice or video and allow a full conversation experience.
    Therefore for me a MID without a strong VOIP ability is not useful. MIDs simply have technologically what smartphones need to be in their next evolutionary phase.

  16. Vakeros says:

    Agreed with the final sentence completely.

    Me though I have a lot of different size pockets ;-)

  17. chippy says:

    We will see them. Intel said so at IDF!

  18. jacke says:

    In my opinion the names are confusing. What we are talking about is not a phone or an internet device. We are talking about the need of a multi-functional “PDA” (old, but rather accurate name), that must be able to handle almost all tasks (video, music, i-net browsing, telephony, mail, reading books and documents).
    For my business work I am using a notebook. A UMPC or netbook has a too small display for working with project planning, excel-sheets etc. In addition I would like a “PDA”, which handles my on-the-go need, when the notebook is to large or slow to start. Smartphose have too small displays to be used conviently. The only product so far that fulfills most of the requirements is the iPhone. But personally, I would prefer a somewhat larger display and a keyboard. This is exactely what the upcoming MIDs can do, except for the telephone part.

  19. chippy says:

    Havent had time to read the full set of comments here but it seems to me that there are even sub-categories of MID.
    MID with Phone
    MID with A/V
    MID as Internet Tablet only

    MY advise is to take each device as a seperate category because really, we are not talking laptops or smartphones here, were talking ‘targeted devices.’ I don’t think anyone believes that MIDs will have any impact on notebook or smartphone sales but will offer a new way to enjoy the full Internet and full A/V Media while on the go. Kind of a PMP for the 2010’s. A big market, but not a huge one.


  20. turn.self.off says:

    i think the problem is that intel just provides the chipset and one potential os.

    the companies building the final product then goes from there in all directions.

    same with the tabletpc of “old”. microsoft just provided the os features and the basic idea, then left it to the companies to build and market the final product.

    nokia made their tablets, it seems, as much to experiment and learn about open source integration with their current way of working. so they aimed outside of the common user target.

    apple is so far the only ones that have been able to build a focused device and marketing from the ground up. and that shows. and given the honed marketing machine that apple is, its like handing out nitro to a formula 1 competitor.

  21. Alan Edwards says:

    I use a Nokia N800 (which is MID, right?). I tried changing to a Toshiba G900 SmartPhone to avoid carrying a phone for comms away from WiFi, and went straight back to the N800.

    The G900 is slow, crashes all the time, the OS is rubbish, and neither browser (Pocket IE and Opera) renders things properly. I did like the physical keyboard though.

    I won’t have another Windows Mobile phone. I might give the 3G iPhone with v2 software a chance, but not before it gets copy and paste. The 2G iPhone v1.1.4 was OK, but no match for the N800 IMO.


  22. REMF says:

    i cannot get excited over any UMPC that uses an Atom at less than 1.33GHz, because the lack of hyper-threading and low clock-speed just knackers performance.

    The Gigabyte 528 with the 1.33GHz Atom would be much more appealing!

  23. Robert says:


    For me a Mid is defined by the size of screen.

    I love my Nokia N800 with a 4.5 inch screen.
    This is just right to watch hours upon hours of
    DVD movies.

    But because of the Iphone and Ipod Touch which are
    MIDS too, future MIDS have to add a game changing
    Two features I would like to see on MIDS are
    Windows XP Lite and an intergrated LCD projection.

    Regards Robert

  24. Will says:

    In my opinion, the iPhone’s primary function is a phone with the capability to access the internet. I think devices like it will eventually be the norm. Web browsers are now being optimised for speed for these devices and the interfaces are evolving for smaller screen (like Opera Mobile 9.5 and Safari Mobile).

    The upcoming CPUs for these smartphones are more than powerful enough for good web browsing. Check out the new Archos 5:

    “MID as Internet Tablet only”. This I think will always remain a niche market. If people can get decent internet access on their phone, why would they buy and carry around another (presumably) larger device which does pretty much the same thing.

  25. ProDigit says:

    I agree. I see no value in mids.A mini notebook seems to be the way to go.
    For smaller,smart phones, digital camera’s, portable DVD players, or even cheap key hangers.

    typing on a mid isn’t handy, and usually if only used to store documents on, a USB keyhanger is more common. You even have keyhangers with a 2″ screen to display picture files…

  26. Chuck says:

    I spent yesterday with a bunch of folks from telcos at the MobileWidget Camp ( http://www.barcamp.org/MobileWidgetCampAustin ). One observation that hit me was that virtually all smartphones are built on ARM architecture hardware. Virtually all MIDs and UMPCs are built on X86 architecture hardware. This seems to be the fundamental divider between the groups. Yes, you can run a web browser on either (Opera anyone?). But the philosphical differences between the platforms is huge. What amazes me is that neither side is willing to acknowledge and negotiate a merger. Even within Microsoft there does not appear to be any real discussion of the relationship of Windows Mobile to Mobile Windows. Will there be an X86 phone? or will X86 be relegated to data (and VOIP) only? Can anyone do a better job of integration than the HTC Shift?

  27. turn.self.off says:

    linux ;)

    but what your basically describing is the different players in the market attempting to create and/or maintain silos of control.

    intel tried doing ARM related cpus. i think they sold of anything related to that some years ago. thing is that ARM is not a intel tech, so while they can more or less dictate what happens in the X86 world, they are just another supplier in the ARM world (ARM as a company just designs the basic cpu and then license that of to a number of companies).

    microsoft has a virtual monopoly on the X86 platform, but is just one player on the ARM platform (palm was ones big there, symbian is big, and google is now going there with android). but if they attempt to port the X86 windows to ARM, it would be slow as tar.

    but if they ported windows mobile to X86, it could undermine their existing market for windows.


  28. Chuck says:

    Yes, Intel sold its ARM CPU business (to Freescale, I think). The real issues are things like “always on” vs “Boot/Resume from Sleep”. And that is a function of power draw and battery life. Fuel Cells anyone?
    It would not make sense to port Windows Mobile to X86, but it would be interesting to see Windows ported to ARM.
    It will be interesting to see if Android (or any other LINUX phone variant) will run on X86 hardware.
    Will the telcos allow X86 phones on their networks?

  29. Ron Larock says:

    I would buy a mid. I am looking for a device that I can get GPS directions on the road and actually view the screen.

    I want internet access and be able to do light spreadsheet and word processing.

    The MID is easy to carry around and I don’t want my phone to be part of it.

    The mid is a great idea and I think it will replace the Auto GPS.

  30. Matt says:

    I believe MIDs and Smartphones are destined for convergence. Depending on which side of the fence you are on now, pro-MID or pro-smartphone, you’ll determine the “winner” as such.

  31. operator says:

    i always saw MIDs as just an evolution of phones so they can finally merge with the rest of the x86 ecosystem. all the features of smartphones, PMPs, even point & shoot cameras could all be contained in one hand-held x86 computer. MIDs always seemed like that mythical final step to “device convergence” that was such a buzzword years ago. so MIDs never appear to me as an additional device to carry around, but as a complete replacement for the bag full of small gadgets. the entire smallish portable gadget arsenal would be absorbed by capable MIDs. the blurry line then would be the division between a MID & a UMPC.

    i’d buy a MID in a heartbeat if it was as capable as a stand-alone phone, pmp, camera, and had full internet over wifi/wimax.

  32. turn.self.off says:

    and would be twice the size of your average phone?

  33. Matt says:

    For me the perfect form factor is the Gigabyte M528. If they could make it about 30% thinner, I think it would be perfect.

  34. operator says:

    the iPhone is close to the convergence i’m talking about, and it’s hardly twice the size of an average phone. smartphones are all generally on the large size anyway.

  35. ArchiMark says:

    FWIW, I just a MID 2 weeks ago, as a complementary device to my Fujitsu P1610 that I recently got as well…

    Both have their pros/cons like everything else…but find that it’s nice to have a pocketable computer that you can do light computing on as well as a bit larger tabletPC, that has more horsepower, larger display (8.9″) and thus larger keyboard, but yet still fairly light and portable….

    Each device suits a particular need and only you as a user can ultimately decide if it has any value or purpose for your needs….

    So, I think that choice is good, and let the market decide what people want to buy….

    Just my 2 cents….


  36. reverendo says:

    since I have a 1610 I’m quite curious about your choice of MID… I’m thinking about going the PDA-phone way, but maybe your experience can help me out

  37. ArchiMark says:

    Well, regarding choice of MID….short answer is:

    1) Aigo seemed like reasonable price all in all…
    2) Aigo was available unlike some others that aren’t yet…. ;-)
    3) Aigo runs Linux, which is usually good thing as it should be hackable to customization…
    4) Aigo design seemed nice; very portable, fits in my shirt pocket without case on…yet display is quite readable and sharp…

    So, as I said before, since my portable needs for more computing power were satisfied by P1610, thought that I could have fun with Aigo….

    If you have other specific questions, you can PM me…



  38. David Hecht says:

    I don’t pretend to understand all of these theological disputes about MID versus UMPC versus whatever.

    All I know is, for the last fifteen years I’ve been trying to find a device that’s:

    1. Large enough screenwise to allow you to surf the web without scroonching your eyes.

    2. Small and light enough to fit into a suit coat pocket.

    A friend who is a photographer (pro-level) makes this point about small thin digital cameras (such as the Casio Exilim): features are nice, but the camera you use is the one you have with you. A small enough camera will always be with you because–like a mobile phone–you don’t have to think about lugging it around. You just have it in your pocket all the time.

  39. chippy says:

    You have an excelent point David.

    I’ve had a lot of friends ask me about video cameras. (I dont know why. They all think that because i’m enjoying mobile PC’s that I know a lot about video cameras!) Its usually when they’re expecting a child.
    I say:
    A bad quality video camera in your pocket will capture a low-quality version of the moment that a high quality camera won’t be there to capture.

    What you are saying is that a low-quality internet access device (smartphone for example) will always be there for those moments.

    I agree, and thats why I carry a Nokia N82 as my main ‘partner.’

    I need something in addition to that though and I think many others do to. A device that can help wot efficiency and quality. The MID/UMPC fits into that category where, for 60-80% of the time, we are able to take an extra device. Maybe one that replaces an iPod, a PMP, and often and big and heavy laptop.

    Its a niche set of people, thats for sure, but its a big number of people!


  40. Vakeros says:

    So we are agreeing – the main partner, is the one we carry around with us everywhere. The second device we don’t. This is why something we can pick up and go with, which fits in our pocket and does what we want is the Ultimate device.
    I want to cary one device around with me for taking those pictures, taking a call (or making one), for accessing the web when I have a moment, check location through GPS, listen to some music or Radio etc. A small smartphone like the Touch Pro offers all this. What I’m looking for is a larger device, like an N800 or a bit bigger – because bigger allows a usable keyboard and better screen plus larger battery. The OS for me is the least important, as long as I can read my docs and play my music. WinMo allows this, Linux allows this, Maemo I believe allows this. XP etc allows this.
    Just a phone wants to be small, but ubiquitous piece of kit can be a bit bigger. And no I guess it won’t meet netbook users needs for their specific scenario, but as my number one piece of kit to pick up and go, this is it. If it has the right connectivity, then you dock at home for that fuller experience.
    The Everun Note has gone the right way with its more powerful ability when connected to the mains. I just wish it was a little bit smaller.

  41. David Hecht says:

    Absolutely correct Steve, though I want to correct the possible misimpression that I’m not interested in a MID: I am.

    I’ve traveled with many devices over the years: several ultralight (<3lb) notebooks, of which my current is a Dell Latitude X1 that I bought as a discontinued item. But these days it never leaves the house.

    I’ve also owned an OQO and a Nokia 700, and some other quirky devices I don’t even remember the designation of.

    At the moment, when I travel, I carry a Nokia 800 and my Smartphone (T-Mobile Wing). For better or worse, the Wing gets a lot more workout than the Nokia these days, simply because I can use it even where there’s no Wifi point. But it is still suboptimal for any real web surfing (it definitely fails the eye-scroonch test).

    At the moment, the Everun Note looks like it might do. I’ll have to see what it feels like in the hand though.

  42. turn.self.off says:

    i guess that t-mobile makes it difficult to tether tge n800 to the wing?

  43. David Hecht says:

    Well, the issue is more one of readiness to use. As with the camera issue, if it requires a lot of fiddle, it’s not worth it. What I want to be able to do is to turn on a device and be immediately surfing or checking email. When I’m at a Wifi point, the Nokia allows that (though in many places there’s the fiddle-faddle of signing in, possibly at a cost, grr grr). Anywhere else, the phone does a better job.

    If you’re in an airport, you really don’t want to be grabbing for devices when they call your flight. You just want to close the one you’re using, slip it into your pocket, and go.

  44. turn.self.off says:

    funny enough, thats exactly how i use my n800 ones i have the bluetooth set up. just grab it, tell it to use the pgone connection and im online.

    yes, that means i leave the bluetooth of the phone on all the time while out and about…

  45. turn.self.off says:

    but then maybe i should add that i dont like to travel by plane these days…

  46. choi says:

    UMPC is too heavy.

    Smartphone is too weak.

    Cause I’ll choose MID~

  47. khak says:

    Don’t forget about E90 if we mentioned Iphone and the others. I have N800 and N810 and for this two I need convert movies until play them on N8xx, its redicules.
    With E90 dont have to convert divix movie. Dont have to instal any odd prog. to open word, doc document. Only plus with N8xx is screen size and web browser. Mid’s are still too big . We should wait for step forard 3-5 years , when producers develop smaler and faster procesor.

  48. khak says:

    Mid’s shouldn’t be biger then Nokia N8xx but, should have double or triple performence, witch is comes in 3-5 years from now.

  49. Dean Bubley says:

    There’s an ergonomic issue to consider too.

    Anyone who buys a MID larger than an iPhone will almost certainly want a separate mobile handset as well.

    Almost nobody is happy to use a headset all the time. And almost nobody will want to lift a device larger than an iPhone to their ear to speak into it. (Exception: current Nokia 9xxx users….). For almost all consumers, the N810 is too big to use as a phone, ditto things like the Everun

    On a similar vein, anything larger than an iPhone will be uncomfortable in most pockets.

    Options seem to me to be:

    a) Get an iPhone-style converged device for voice/SMS/decent mobile Internet use, plus a notebook or netbook for long-session work or entertainment or typing.
    b) Get a normal phone for voice/SMS/maybe email or light web use , plus a MID for heavy-duty mobile web 2.0 access . And probably a desktop PC or big laptop at home/work
    c) If you’re not that bothered about always-on mobile Internet, get a normal phone + laptop with optional mobile broadband dongle.

  50. turn.self.off says:

    i would not mind walking around with a bluetooth earpiece in place (or ready to grab from a pocket), but for “style” issues…

    but then i see a increasing number of people around the mall wearing them. but i suspect most are truckdrivers and others that need both hands free most of the day…

    i really do wonder how much mobile tech acceptance is governed by style. for one there is the “man-bag” issue. then there is the idea of wearing a headset all the time (i have seen more then one comment thread on that over at engadget when they write about one of those). hell, glasses still have something of a stigma today, even tho we humans have been using them for something like 200 years…

  51. Rosaleen says:

    informative post, keep it up.,

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