I ♥ MIDs (and so do you)
I admit, I was among the first to scoff.
When Intel declared, a year or so back, that the next big thing in technology would be mobile internet devices – or “MIDs”, as they’ve inevitably become known – I wasn’t having any of it.
I mean, I already have a phone for on-the-go communications and web browsing. And I already have a laptop for running “proper” applications. I simply didn’t see what I could do with a MID that I couldn’t already do – better – with my existing devices.
And it seemed Intel didn’t really know either. The MID homepage they put up was packed with buzzwords but distinctly light on killer reasons for choosing a MID over an existing device. MIDs didn’t look like an imminent revolution, more like a marketing concept that accidentally got made. They certainly didn’t look ready to go up against the likes of the iPhone and the Eee PC.
The MID among us
But last week at IDF, Intel finally stood up and started talking about MIDs in plain English. And as it spelt out its vision, it quickly became apparent that the company knew exactly what it was doing.
The point we’ve all been missing – thanks largely to Intel’s woolly marketing – is that the “mobile internet device” category doesn’t have to compete with the iPhone and the Eee PC… because both of those market flagships are mobile internet devices.
Sure, those particular models are the cream of the crop. Most of the MIDs Intel showed off at IDF (of which I reproduce a few here) were awkward little pocket consoles with fiddly keyboards and toy operating systems – the type of devices I’d always previously associated with the term “mobile internet device.” I still think these are doomed, unless they evolve dramatically in very short order.
But Intel doesn’t care about the precise form factor: it just makes the chips. As Apple and Asus have shown, there’s a very real demand for usable devices that can deliver internet access and a reasonable amount of computing power on the go. And it’s a brave man who’d bet on that demand dropping off any time soon.
MIDs won’t be taking over the world just yet. Questions of screen size, keyboard, battery life and processing speed will all need to be addressed or worked around before the pocket computer kills off the full-fat laptop.
But the history of computing is a story of incredible innovation, of pipe dreams becoming everyday realities and of multi-billion dollar markets springing up from nothing – often over the course of just a few years. Intel clearly believes that MID technologies are just at the start of this process, and it wants in on the ground floor.
It’s not alone, either: Nvidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang declared at this week’s NVISION conference in San Jose that “the mobile device will be the next personal computer”. For now, his company’s MID projects are focused solely on Windows Mobile 7 devices (pah), but as the market grows they’ll be well placed to expand.
Of course, I wouldn’t buy into MIDmania just on the say-so of a few billionaire CEOs. The market moves quickly, and sometimes unpredictably. You don’t have to be in tech very long to learn to take “next big thing” declarations with a grain of salt.
But as I sat in the audience at IDF, listening to Intel’s Anand Chandrasekhar evangelising MIDs, I realised that I didn’t need persuading. I’ve been a MID devotee all along. Just last month I found myself intrigued, excited and almost wholly won over by the iPhone. Most of us did.
And the iPhone is at the very vanguard of the coming MID revolution. Just wait until you see the devices that come along to supersede it.