Intel has a chip, but where are the MIDs?

By Sumner Lemon, IDG News Service |  Mobile & Wireless

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For all the fanfare surrounding the launch of Intel's Centrino Atom chip package
at the Intel Developer Forum in Shanghai, there was a notable shortage of new
products based on the chips, apart from a few concept designs rolled out for
the occasion.

Centrino Atom, which includes an Atom processor and a chipset, was billed as
the heart of a new class of computing devices, handheld computers that Intel
calls Mobile Internet Devices (MIDs). These new devices, which promise mobile
Internet access and the ability to communicate or play multimedia files, are
scheduled to arrive during the second or third quarter, but that seems unlikely
to happen, at least in any significant volumes.

"As with most Jetsons-like products, they tend to suffer from too much
hype and overly high expectations," said Bryan Ma, director of personal
systems research at IDC Asia-Pacific, referring to the 1960s television cartoon
about life in the distant future replete with flying cars, robots, and other
gadgets.

IDC hasn't issued a forecast for the number of MIDs that will be shipped this
year. There are "a lot of hesitations and concerns" about this product
segment, Ma said, adding he doesn't expect to see widespread demand for MIDs
for several years, at least.

The biggest concern is the lack of awareness among users. Many consumers don't
yet understand how MIDs can be useful to them in their daily lives, Ma said,
adding that other concerns include product design, usability issues, and pricing.

For Intel's part, the company says a range of MIDs are in the works and insists
the designs showcased at IDF are soon headed to users. "We've got over
20 [manufacturers] planning products," said Gary Willihnganz, director
of marketing at Intel's Ultra Mobility Group, during a conference call with
reporters.

Several of the concept MID designs shown at IDF had been exhibited before.
Others, such as Panasonic's ToughBook, seemed to stretch the MID concept by
adding features and capabilities beyond what was originally envisioned by Intel,
blurring the distinctions between MIDs and other types of portable computers.

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