Interesting to see the announcement that Ericsson is going to collaborate with Intel on the next generation of small MIDs (Mobile Internet Devices). Edit - I see that datacard specialist Option is joining in too.
Although definitions vary, I see the MID category as consisting of handheld consumer-centric devices with a 4+ inch screen, optimised for Internet access and services. In other words, a bit larger than the iPod Touch, but more equivalent in size to a Nokia N810.
At the moment, most of the products in this category are WiFi-only (the Nokia being a prime example, along with various early devices based on the Intel Atom processor and MID reference design like the Aigo). Some "bag-sized" mobile devices like the HTC Athena have been 3G-based in the past, but have not been wildly successful.
Looking to the future, I'm expecting this grade of products to adopt built-in WWAN much faster (in proportionate terms) than notebooks or netbooks. Intel's next Atom-based platform called Moorestown should help this trend along.
Initially, I'm expecting a bias towards WiMAX-based MIDs, rather than 3G. There are various reasons for this - not least that the main countries I see adopting MIDs earliest (US, Taiwan, Korea, Japan) are also those that are pretty advanced on the WiMAX track. Moreover, I think that WiMAX makes it easier to have appropriate business models for such products - multiple devices linked to the same data subscription, ad-hoc access and so forth, without the need for a SIM. The WiMAX operators are likely to be more open-minded about the Internet too. The pendulum will likely swing back towards HSPA (and ultimately LTE) over time - which is why the announcement this morning is important.
(There are also other players in the MID silicon space of course - notably Qualcomm with its Snapdragon platform, and Texas Instruments with later versions of its OMAP processors)
However, while I see this segment as important, I'm certainly not as bullish on overall MID volumes as some of my analyst peers. I'm expecting fewer than 100m total shipments of MIDs and netbooks and UMPCs by 2013. I just can't see the MID market reaching the scale that smartphones are at today - I think it will be more along the lines of the scale of handheld gaming consoles or navigation devices. They're certainly nice-to-have gadgets, but I don't see them as ever being a primary device for people to get online, any more than smartphones will be. And I think that consumers will be thinking twice about secondary gadgets during the recession, anyway.
Detailed forecasts and market analysis will be in the upcoming Disruptive Analysis report on Mobile Broadband Computing - please email information AT disruptive-analysis.com for more details and a free summary when the report is published.
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