Are MIDs the answer?

In case you haven't noticed, 2009 is the year of the netbook, both in education and in the consumer computing world at large. Reading a recent post on Notebooks.

In case you haven't noticed, 2009 is the year of the netbook, both in education and in the consumer computing world at large. Reading a recent post on Notebooks.com, it becomes even clearer that netbook prices will continue to drop while performance will continue to increase. Substantial upgrades to video hardware and battery life are expected this quarter. Let's just say that if your schools are in the market for inexpensive computing this summer, you're in luck.

However, there is another class of device that hasn't really taken off yet that could prove very interesting for those who aren't jumping on the netbook bandwagon. Netbooks, after all, still aren't as portable as many users would like them to be, whether those users are tiny first-graders or hurried, overloaded college students accustomed to their iPhones. Worse, most don't have built-in 3G wireless, tying them to WiFi hotspots.

Enter the MID, or Mobile Internet Device. LG and Intel recently announced that the first of these devices using Intel's Moorsetown processor (designed specifically for MIDs) would be available within the next year or so. A lot of questions obviously remain while we're this far out from seeing a MID in the wild, but the first has to be, "Can this give students the Internet access, extreme portability, and low price they need?"

They certainly have a lot of potential in this area, particularly if mobile data providers can keep data prices low and subsidize the devices. What if a school could purchase MIDs at $50 a piece, pay $10 a month for data, and lock in to three year contracts for hundreds of students? It seems pie in the sky, but if Verizon, AT&T, and their cellular brethren want to start building customers for life, what better way to push out a product?

Similarly, if cellular companies could use this opportunity to roll out femtocells in schools and neighborhoods, expanding their own infrastructure while providing increased, subsidized access, suddenly we have a situation in which everyone wins.

While netbooks have begun to make 1:1 initiatives more realistic, I have to wonder if MIDs will become the student computing device of choice in the next couple of years.