Have netbooks killed the MID?

Mobile internet devices have an uncertain future

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Is the Mobile Internet Device dead? Or, to put it another way, has the pocket-sized MID, a 'net-connected device that's usually described as being bigger than a smartphone and smaller than a netbook, ever actually caught on?

The answer to these questions is a bit complicated, and depends on whom you talk to and how they define the category. According to some, the MID is far from dead, in fact they say it's thriving.

Gartner, for instance, considers Apple's iPhone and iPod Touch to be examples of MIDs, even though the iPhone is more commonly called a smartphone. Considering that those two Apple devices have been fabulously successful, selling 50 million units globally in less than three years, the MID category looks quite healthy indeed. Gartner also considers e-readers that are connected to the Internet (like the Amazon Kindle) to be MIDs.

But other MIDs have struggled to carve out a niche in the mobile device market, and some, like the much-hyped OQO device, failed before they even got off the ground. With a troubled past, is there any future for this "tweener" product category?

MID origins, and an early casualty

The name MID has been around at least five years, and seems to have first been popularised by Intel. Intel is heavily invested in the MID concept; it showed off several MID prototypes powered by its Atom processor in January 2009 at its sprawling displays at the International CES show.

During his CES keynote, Intel chairman Craig Barrett demoed the OQO model 2+, a MID that was to have been available in the first half of 2009 for £600. Sporting a 5-inch touch-screen with a slide-out 58-key physical keyboard, it would run an Intel Atom processor, have up to 60GB of storage and run Windows Vista or XP.

OQO

But it never happened. OQO, founded in San Francisco in 2000, closed its doors earlier this year without shipping the model 2+. Although the company Web site still touts the model 2+, the "About us" page reports the company's demise.

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