When we talk about ‘Mobile Internet’ the first thing we often think about is mobile Web. We’ve heard about ‘Full Internet Experience’ and ‘Internet in your Pocket’ and seen diagram after diagram showing how a full-fat 800×480 browser is the key but the truth is that it is just a small element of what’s picking up steam in the mobile Internet device market. In fact, the mobile Web is just one of the things enabled by mobile Internet. Its a strong focal point but it would be a complete mistake to think that that is the only thing a MID is going to be.
I’ve just finished listening to a Texas Instruments webcast on MID business models and its stimulated me to share some notes I have been working on for a few weeks now. It centers around a definition of the MID that sweeps away thoughts of a web device or a device that competes with a smartphone or a netbook and builds the idea of a device segment that is created through the natural progression of existing mobile devices. Before I get into that though, make sure you make a note to listen to the webcast as it was extremely interesting. You’ll hear Mike Woodward of AT&T giving very positive feedback and talking about the $200 (subsidised) price point that they think are important. There’s a good discussion on the many possibilities for subsidising the device (through data contracts, content contracts, advertising and more.) You’ll hear TI talk about being able to support ‘native formats’ which is a great way of saying full quality TV, Internet and Video. Towards the end, there’s a great comment from Seshu Madhavapeddy, General Manager of Mobile Internet Devices at TI, where he explains that not only could an MID fit in between a netbook and a smartphone, not only could a MID BE a smartphone or netbook but it could also replace a number of other consumer electronic devices that people already carry around.
I agree, the MID could almost be any consumer device but its not so much a new device as a place where existing devices are moving to. The desire to move towards Internet-connected consumer electronics is already here. Think of the iPhone, the Dash Expess navigator, the Archos 5 PMP, the Amazon Kindle e-book reader and the Sony Mylo. These are all mobile Internet devices, all exciting and all creating a lot of interest in the market. They all use the mobile Internet to connect applications and provide content or services like Voice, messaging, PIM, browsing, social networking, HD media, online gaming, navigation and online e-books through a varying number of operating systems and that’s how I think it will look in the future. Simply the existing consumer and business mobile device categories moving towards pocketable high-quality mobile Internet connectivity with interesting communication, entertainment, location and productivity apps.
Devices are moving into the MID segment for three reasons.
1 – OEMs. The pocketable devices in existing segments need to get better. This is natural. They are all moving in the direction of the Internet and in the direction of higher processing power and richer, more colourful and more ‘native format’ experiences.
2 – Content providers are keen to have new channels. Feeding content to people on chairs and sofas is too restrictive. They want you to have their video, music and advertising content everywhere. It’s a huge opportunity.
3 – Data carriers. There’s a desire to sell data contracts alongside voice contracts. This is an obvious point. Data carriers must be careful not to overload themselves otherwise they’ll end up having to put unexpected investment into the backbone but if they play it well, the transition from customers with one contract to customers with two or three contracts seems like a no-brainer.
All of these links in the chain see the benefit of the handheld e-commerce platform that is the MID.
So you see, its not the mobile web that really has anything to do with why MIDs will move forward. Its not really about the end customers driving the requirement, its about the OEMs, the content providers and the carriers that want to use it to lever sales of products, content and data.
No-one is saying the MID will wipe out the smartphone or sell 20 million in its first year but it’s already feeding in slowly, surely and almost unnoticed. Pocketable and handheld Internet-connected devices are here already and are going to gain incredible momentum as the technology finally reaches prime-time over the next 24 months. It’s hard to find a reason why it might fail.