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Third time’s the charm, for mobile Intel?

Aug 29, 2008 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 1 views

The UMPC (ultra-mobile PC) is dead, due to “unbridled feature creep” and associated price escalation. The mobile Internet device (MID) is stalled by iPhone mania and limited consumer pocket-space. The ultra-low cost netbook, however, is bringing “all the features mobile connected consumers want,” according to an interesting editorial.

Writing on his DeviceGuru blog, Rick Lehrbaum traces the UMPC's history back to March of 2006, when Microsoft and Intel unveiled the concept. Originally expected to sell for $600 to $1,000, devices in the category (those few still available, anyway) now typically cost $1,000 to $2,000, Lehrbaum notes, concluding, “With prices like these, it's no wonder the UMPC hasn't taken the consumer market by storm.”

Lehrbaum next examines the fortunes of the “MID” (mobile Internet device), a “better mousetrap” introduced — again by Intel — about a year after the UMPC, in April of 2007. Lehrbaum sees the MID as an attempt by Intel to drive its x86 chip line downward, toward the massive mobile phone chip market, by creating a bridge category midway between laptops and phones. More than a year later, though, the only MID to achieve any real marketshare remains Nokia's Linux-based N-series Internet tablets, he says, which ironically appeared before Intel “invented” the category, and do not use Intel processors. “RIP MID,” Lehrbaum concludes — nevermind the ABI study forecasting 50 million MID shipments annually within a few years.

The third time's the charm for Intel, though, Lehrbaum suggests. He points to the “joint” Intel/Asus launch of the Asus EEE PC last year as the turning point for Intel in mobile devices. Today, searching the Internet for the term “netbook,” coined by Intel this March, turns up a healthy range of products popularly priced from $300 to $600. Many Linux netbooks use solid-state drives, he notes, while Windows XP netbooks tend to use hard drives and offer larger displays and higher prices.

Lehrbaum concludes, “It's no wonder, comparing netbooks to UMPCs (as defined by Microsoft and Intel), that UMPCs have ended up in the scrap bin of device history. MIDs, meanwhile, fell victim to Apple's excellent design and execution of the iPhone. Not surprisingly, market analyst Gartner recently forecast stellar netbook market growth — reaching shipments of 8 million annually by 2009.” (story).

Taiwan-based research firm Market Intelligence Center, meanwhile, recently forecast shipments of about eight million netbooks starting this year.

Lehrbaum's essay can be found on his DeviceGuru blog, here.

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