Mid-life Crisis for MIDs

I've always thought that Mobile Internet Devices (MIDs) were solutions in search of a problem. I can't help feeling that the following announcement rather confirms this view:

The Linux Foundation (LF), the nonprofit organization dedicated to accelerating the growth of Linux, today announced it will host the industry’s most advanced and open Linux-based mobile project, Moblin.

Created in 2007, the Moblin project will be supported by the Linux Foundation. With technical support from the industry’s highly respected kernel developers and a neutral, third party host, the Moblin project is primed to be the most advanced and open mobile Linux platform.

Moblin is an open source project that supports Linux-based software platform and is optimized for the next generation of mobile devices including netbooks, mobile Internet devices (MID), in-vehicle infotainment systems, and other embedded devices. In this economic climate, these markets are among the fastest-growing in computing, and Linux is increasingly considered the OS of choice for vendors who require more attractive margins, faster time to market and custom branding.

For me, the last paragraph is the key one. It lists the main areas of use for Moblin as “netbooks, mobile Internet devices (MID), in-vehicle infotainment systems, and other embedded devices.” Well, as far as netbooks are concerned, there's now a wide range of GNU/Linux based operating systems available (here's one just out), so Moblin doesn't serve much purpose there. Similarly, the in-vehicle infotainment systems now have their own dedicated open source project based on Linux, GENIVI. And there's hardly any lack of Linux-based products aimed at embedded devices.

So that just leaves poor old MIDs as Moblin's heartland. The fact that Moblin is moving to the Linux Foundation – not a bad move in itself – suggests to me that its sponsors have realised that things have moved on, and that Moblin has served its purpose of getting people thinking about this space. At least the Linux Foundation will be able to ensure that work already achieved by Moblin is channelled appropriately, but I predict that in a year's time, few will be talking much about MIDs at all.


Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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