4 problems with recent no-name MIDs out of Asia

Posted on 27 November 2009, Last 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.

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