4 problems with recent no-name MIDs out of Asia

Updated on 11 March 2010 by

Wow… and I thought netbooks were boring…

Seems strange that we’ve been seeing quite a few MIDs lately, but not in the capacity in which they were expected. Intel is responsible for propagating the term MID and the initial plan was to couple these devices with the Atom platform to have pocketable web access ‘companion’ device that could also function as a media player and productivity tool. However this hasn’t quite come to fruition as the current Atom lineup just doesn’t lend itself to the type of device that people want in their pocket. Instead of X86 architecture running a full OS for two or three hours, the masses seem to want always-on all day devices. At this point, we’ve only seen that achieved with some combination of the ARM platform and a ‘mobile’ OS (Android etc.). Seems like we’ll need to wait on Moorestown to see Intel’s true vision of a MID.

Until then, we’ve seen a relatively small number of attempts from large companies to create MID devices. The Archos 5 Android Internet Tablet is a good example of a pretty well done MID, but at this point not many other big companies are following suit.

Filling the void seem to be a bunch of ‘no-name’ MIDs coming out of Asia from companies that I’ll wager most of us never knew existed. We should be happy that there are MIDs being made, right? Unfortunately there are several problems with these devices:

1. Inconsistent specs and info

As is the nature of these devices, it is hard to find solid and consistent translations of specs or convincingly official information about a given device. Maybe it’s our fault for trying to buy devices which are designed for the Asian market, but most of the time it seems that emails need to be sent to the manufacturers to determine exactly what the specs of the device are, what version of software they are running, included wireless radios and supports bands, etc. “Marketing inch seems to only come in the form of YouTube videos showing off what seem to be perpetually early builds of these foreign devices.

2. Early-adopters as beta testers

Another frightening trend with no-name MID companies is their willingness to ship units ripe with bugs, or lacking features that were claimed. Several of the devices out there today mention “Android capable inch, but ship with Windows CE instead, promising updates at later times. But how is a consumer to know whether or not these companies will follow up on those promises in a timely manner? Even if they do provide these updates, how many users really want to go through the process of a firmware upgrade? Is it too much to ask that these devices be released once they have been thoroughly tested and polished?

3. Availability

This is one of the most peculiar problems. Even if someone wants one of these devices, it is rarely clear whether they are yet on the market, or where to buy them. Best case scenario, you can pick up a device through a big name importer, which usually makes sure that these devices are in working order. But these random MIDs we’ve seen lately aren’t hitting the big name importers, they are often sold direct through the OEMs website and sometimes can only be purchased in bulk! One of the biggest roadblocks to actually owning one of these is deciding whether or not you trust the company to ship the MID to you after forking over your cash, the vast majority of consumers (and even of hardcore gadget gurus) aren’t going to be tracking these guys down and trying to ascertain a unit from overseas.

4. None of these devices are going mainstream

All of the points listed above lead to these devices staying random no-name MIDs. Even when one breaks out of no-name land and makes rounds on the web, like the SmartQ 7, all of the above issues prevent these units from being anything more than a geek toy. Which is really sad considering this is the state of the majority of MIDs that we see today.

For those of you paying attention to the segment, it seems like MIDs never really took off as Intel envisioned them, but they picked up an additional component, phone capability. Now we see devices like the HTC HD2 which could be considered a pretty good attempt at a MID, but we are still calling these devices smartphones. So maybe Asia hasn’t caught on that we’ve made the jump from standalone MIDs to MID + phone devices, or they just really like to cobble together generic slate devices running Windows CE – either way, these no-name MIDs that we’ve seen lately are doing nothing but giving a bad name to the term MID, and I’m really hoping that they aren’t a sign of things to come. Maybe if Dell would hurry up and show us a decent attempt with their rumored Streak MID, we could break out of this boring no-name MID era.

And just in case you were wondering, this article was inspired by this device as well as other random MIDs we’ve seen over the last few months.

22 Comments For This Post

  1. Ben Lang says:

    New article: The problem with recent no-name MIDs out of Asia http://bit.ly/5eVSi8

  2. Steve 'Chippy' Paine says:

    RT @benz145: The problem with recent no-name MIDs out of Asia http://bit.ly/5eVSi8

  3. Chris Davies says:

    RT @benz145: New article: The problem with recent no-name MIDs out of Asia http://bit.ly/5eVSi8

  4. ゲンジンアロ says:

    RT @benz145 New article: The problem with recent no-name MIDs out of Asia http://bit.ly/5eVSi8

  5. Chris Davies says:

    Good article, Ben. I think part of the problem is that we see devices attached to temptingly low prices – “$200 Android MID spotted in China!” – but by the time they get the usual importer, customs, tax, testing and maybe distributor fees the price has crept up. Something that seems a reasonable “I’ll take a shot at that” prospect at $200 tends to look less appealing when it costs the same as an entry-level notebook.

  6. Mike Cane says:

    A bit unfair picking on Camangi, though, isn’t it? Unlike, say, the Smart, they’ve communicated with people outside of Asia, have set up a website with full specs, have put up a web page explaining their vision of a software market, have shown a video of it *running* Android (no CE in sight!), and even have a Twitter account.

    If you want to crush the no-name Asian mini-tablets, yell at Archos to put Android on their Archos 7 IMT! I’m surprised they haven’t already done that — but perhaps they wanted to bash the 5’s Android into shape first before moving it over.

  7. Vlad Bobleanta says:

    The problem with recent no-name MIDs out of Asia http://j.mp/6VQW5q

  8. olivier says:

    What worries me most is service, especially when I have no indication whatsoever on the quality of the device to start with.

  9. Jim says:

    I’m not sure that the availability (or the lack thereof) of these MID’s is their problem. Many of them were made by small companies with a restricted distribution network, and it’s not even clear if some of these companies ever intended to sell these products outside Asia in the first place. In many cases it’s we who live outside Asia who found these devices over the internet and contacted the companies making them requesting to buy one.

  10. jech says:

    I think the biggest problem is that people are using the term “MID” for devices which aren’t MIDs in fact. I refuse to call MID a device without a full OS. A device with Windows Mobile or Android is not a MID! Android is good for smartphones, but not for a MID. Only a standard Linux or Windows is a right system for a MID. Also anything above 5″ screen can hardly be called MID, because it’s not very mobile anymore.

    Taking this into account there are only a few “true” MIDs available – Viliv S5, Aigo, BenQ S6 and SmartQ 5. Most of them are pretty old (announced more then one year ago) and are much bigger then I wished. If fact we haven’t seen announced any good new MID during last year, that’s very frustrating…

  11. Ben says:

    It’s funny you say that jech, I actually don’t call devices with full OS (Windows/Mac/Desktop Linux) MIDs, I call them UMPCs! In my mind, MIDs are companion devices like the iPhone or Archos 5 Internet Tablet, rather than UMPCs which run full OSs but don’t have that always-on nature.

    Just goes to show that all of these acronyms are rather confusing because of how general they are.

  12. JeCh says:

    But it was Intel, who came up with the term “MID” and their definition was almost the same as mine. A portable device that can fit into a (bigger) pocket and runs a full OS.

    Anyway, it doesn’t matter how we call them, the sad truth is, that there are only very few devices and all of them have some serious deal-breakers, like size, missing I/O ports, battery capacity, HD/SSD size etc.

    The Viliv S5 is closest to my ideal device. If only it had HDMI, was a little smaller and supported Linux. I used to own one before somebody stoled it. Now I’m looking if I can get anything better, but it doesn’t seem we can see anything interesting soon. I’ll probably wait for CES 2010 to see if anything interesting is coming and if not, I’ll get another S5 and won’t leave it in my car this time.

  13. 10 says:

    well, your definition for *full OS* is only any OS that runs on x86 architecture then.

    That’s really different from what I know.

  14. jech says:

    10> Why do you think so? Linux runs fine on many different architectures including ARM.

    A full OS to me is an OS that can run native desktop applications. This includes Windows and all Unix-like OS (Linux, OS X, BSD etc.) I prefer Linux because it is the only full OS which is (in some distributions) optimized for small screen devices and touchscreen.

  15. Ben Lang says:

    4 problems with recent no-name MIDs out of Asia: http://is.gd/56vm3

  16. Michael says:

    I think the archos 5 is a nice approach.

    For me the key feature are

    GPS
    this is the only place where I can see a future for the MID. For mobile browsing most people have a smartphone, that does a decent job at least on the go (I know some peopple here might disagree)

    For work I have laptop

    and fo couchbrowsing I use my HTPC (actually works really nice with gmote) or my tablet pc

    but hey I wouldn’t mind if my gps would double as an internet device when I go on holyday, and ahs some nice media features

    Android
    For this kind of device android is the future, having all your contact and calendar data in the cloud

  17. jech says:

    I have 2 comments:

    1) You can easily replace HTPC with a MID. Just connect it to your TV and use remote keyboard and mouse.

    2) When you’re on holiday you can easily reach places with no Internet connection. So it is a very bad idea to use server-only data. Cloud is a big hype, but IMO it is useless outside a big company’s intranet. I want all my data to be stored locally so I can access them any time.

  18. Michael says:

    1) why would I wanna replace it? A MID has not enough horsepower for 2 sat tv tuners and a decen 1080 hdtv experience

    2) with google android data is stored locally but synced with the google servers, plus at least in europe 3g coverage is pretty good and cheap

  19. Michael says:

    another thing to mention is that android is really great for up to 5″ screens

    to my experience most full blown os need at least 10″ especially when working with a touchscreen

    10″ is not really portable at least not more than a laptop (e.g. macbook air)

  20. Mike Arnold says:

    Thanks for expanding on this subject. I have been searching through google for the past few hours. I have read many of your other posts and they are awesome. I will be awaiting your next post.

  21. shoudlnt i try it? says:

    hence all these comments!

  22. mrsa treatment says:

    I found your blog on google and read a few of your other posts. I just added you to my Google News Reader. Keep up the good work Look forward to reading more from you in the future.

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