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Handsets World: Stuck in the MID

Home after a flight to Heathrow Terminal 5 (it's all right now, I can bravely report),and I greatly enjoyed the words scrawled on a luggage container being offloaded from my BA flight: "Fly the flag, lose your bag".Anyway, back to the tech stuff...
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Written by David Meyer, Freelance reporter on

Home after a flight to Heathrow Terminal 5 (it's all right now, I can bravely report),and I greatly enjoyed the words scrawled on a luggage container being offloaded from my BA flight: "Fly the flag, lose your bag".

Anyway, back to the tech stuff...

Handsets World is one of those rather small-scale conferences but, as I mentioned yesterday, full of rather important people in the mobile industry. The big issue I noticed today (aside from Android - I'll write that up tomorrow) was how everyone is terribly excited about mobile internet devices (MIDs). Y'know, smaller than a low-cost subnotebook (or "netbook") and way bigger than a smartphone. And with a crappy "keyboard", if with one at all.

This sort of device hasn't had a swell time of it thus far. At the top end you have horribly expensive yet useless, prototypey MIDs from companies like Samsung, and at the bottom you arguably have the Nokia N810, which is also kind of an early MID. None have done well with these, although Nokia's done OK in the developer market, because the thing runs Linux.

Some people at Handsets World - particularly Windriver's Jason Whitmire - were being very enthusiastic about MIDs, and were suggesting that MIDs and smartphones are starting to merge. Ummm....

I can see the use case. I think they make sense for a certain market, say in hospitals. But mass-market devices? Where's the evidence that people actually want them? Even the early adopter market hasn't exactly gone wild for what's out there. None of the boosters really had any evidence, other than to point frantically to the focus groups they'd conducted.

Here's the problem. Remember the Nokia N-Gage? Remember why it expired noiselessly the first time they tried it? Because anyone walking around with that thing pressed to their ear looked like a... (I struggled to find a family-friendly word to insert here, but failed). The thing resembled a taco shell. This is not the MID's specific problem but, given the screen size requirements of a MID, anyone pressing that up to their ear will look just as daft.

But you can use a Bluetooth headset, say the promoters. Yeah, you could, but most people don't like to do that. And the MID's battery life could not match that of a proper smartphone. And they cost a fortune for what they are - especially since the appearance of the Eeeetc.

It's not just me that's rather sceptical about MIDs. At least one big bod from a big phone manufacturer was looking pained at today's presentation, and a very respectable analyst was muttering about emperors and clothes. I think the iPhone is about as big as anyone will want their phone to be, and if an internet-friendly device can't be used for one-handed surfing (so to speak) then it may as well have a netbook's proper keyboard.

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