Mobile Internet Devices still coming despite smartphones, netbooks and smartbooks?

EB, which released a new MID reference design at Computex, says yes

Some gadget observers wonder whether the Mobile Internet Device (MID) can share the same bed with the smartphone, netbook -- and now smartbooks -- and not fight over the blankets.

MIDs have not taken off, even though Intel Corp. showed several designs at CES in January and Samsung announced Mondi, the first WiMax-enabled MID, at the International CTIA Wireless conference in March.

But Vesa Kiviranta, vice president of Elektrobit Corp., or EB, which is based in Oulu, Finland, believes there is a strong future for the seemingly competing bedfellows. The company last week announced a MID reference device at Computex Taipei based on Intel's second-generation MID processor, codenamed Moorestown.

The reference device will be sold to equipment manufacturers and wireless operators who will customize the design, adding features or leaving some out, before selling them to the public, perhaps in 2010, Kiviranta told Computerworld. "We're at the very early stage, but in less than year you'll see products." He would not disclose any customers, but said discussions are under way.

The reference device will reduce development time and costs for device manufacturers, EB believes.

The company published photos of the design, showing it at 5.7 x 2.8 x .53 inches in size, making it is small enough to fit in a pocket. The touchscreen on the device is about four inches diagonally. It runs Linux and supports Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and WiMax or HSPA broadband. Other details, including eventual pricing, were not available.

With a screen at 3.97 inches, the design fits into the MID category, with smartphones deploying screens smaller than 3.9 inches and netbooks offering screens larger than 5 inches, Kiviranta said.

He said manufacturers will work with a "full technology package" that EB will help them customize. EB provides a description of the circuit board, mechanical design, antenna design, the Linux software and more.

Kiviranta said that MIDs have not emerged in the market faster because "many technical issues prevented advancement" including problems reducing power consumption, and even the lack of flat-rate data plans from carriers. But the MID is committed to the idea of a device that is "data-centric, always on, and pocketable."

Wireless options are improving. Clearwire now operates mobile WiMax service in Portland, Ore., and Baltimore and expects to launch in 80 markets by 2010. And AT&T announce last week it would be upgrading its HSPA 3G by the end of the year to double the theoretical bandwidth to 7.2Mbps. EB, which last year had $200 in revenues, has access to 2,000 engineers and has the size and ability to work with multiple equipment customers at one time, Kiviranta said.

"We are putting a lot of effort into the MID," he said. Kiviranta said he has heard some describe the MID market as asleep, but said: "I worked on smartphones in the past and people said the same thing before they did so well."

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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