Are MIDs over before they started?

Mobile Internet Devices (MIDs), that category of not-quite-smartphones and not-quite-netbooks, has been the subject of skepticism since Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) first introduced (i.e. made up) the category last year. Today it appears that even MID supporters are losing faith. The DigiTimes reported today that several members of Intel’s Mobile Internet Devices Innovation Alliance (MIDIA) have quit development of MIDs due to very weak shipments.

The devices, similar to ultra-mobile PCs, typically run Linux and are promised include Intel’s Moorestown chipset in the first half of 2010. But only a few vendors have even committed to releasing MIDs in 2010, instead focusing on other more promising areas, such as netbooks and ebook readers. Although not naming names, the DigiTimes said that fewer than half of MIDIA’s members will actually produce MIDs using the new chips.

I met with an Intel spokeswoman earlier this month who said that MIDs are a category “still ahead of its time.” In fact, there is really only one pure MID on the market, with seven other SKUs of category-crossing devices planned. Even with carrier relationships in place, global sales of MIDs from manufacturers like Quanta Computer and Compal Electronics have not been impressive.

I think Intel might find that the time for MIDs never arrives. If it does, the category will – and already has – taken on a new definition to include things like connected portable navigation devices, digital cameras, ebooks, digital picture frames and really any other fourth-screen device. With the plethora of these new devices actually coming to market, ultraportable MIDs designed solely for computing will continue to be a solution looking for a problem.

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