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Technology CompaniesIntelIs Intel going to hold back on MID marketing?

Is Intel going to hold back on MID marketing?

This InfoWorld article makes it sound like Intel is going to take a wait and see attitude when it comes to marketing MIDs. InfoWorld suggests that at Computex this past week there were several hit, low-cost PCs using Intel’s forthcoming Atom processors, but there wasn’t the same thing for Atom-natural MIDs.

Executive Vice President and General Manager of Intel Sales and Marketing Group Sean Maloney takes a wait and see attitude with respect to MIDs, “”By the end of this year, you will have seen a whole bunch of new MIDs coming out and we’ll see which ones are hits.”

Excuse me. There already is a hit MID. It’s called the iPhone. And in terms of early adopter power users the Nokia N95 isn’t far behind. If Intel or anyone else is looking for permission to do a good job with a MID, they have it. The market has spoken. Now get to work and make it happen.

Maloney’s cautious words, which I can appreciate, are making me cringe. I smell another UMPC-scale disaster. And I’ll be totally bumbed if this is what happens, because I really want a larger device than an iPhone for my Internet browsing, videos, home remote control, and the like.

Why do we need MIDs when we can get a smartphone that’s similar? Yes, the MIDs will have many of the same features (great connectivity, diminutive dimensions, cost), but some key differences: They will have larger displays. They will have better browsing experiences (complete with Flash). They will have more open platforms.

Now here’s where it’s going to be hard for MIDs–outside of the OEMs dragging their feet and saying “Show me first”:

First, MIDs will be secondary devices. Why is this an issue? Connectivity. WiFi is OK for starters, but many MIDs will need 3G radios or similar. And I’m like more and more people that have multiple radio-based devices and the carriers don’t see to have good offerings for users like us. Why should I be paying as much for a second or third or fourth device as my primary phone? I shouldn’t. Intel is going to have to work with the carriers to solve this or if they won’t do it, Intel is going to have to subsidize the market and prove to the carriers that they should be working with customers that have multiple connected devices differently.

I see another looming problem with MIDs, like the UMPCs before them? Price. Remember when the UMPC was going to be only $500? Didn’t happen. Instead prices reached three times that. There’s no doubt about it, price has been a big problem when it comes to the small UMPC. Huge problem. And if Intel doesn’t work with manufacturers, in terms of incentives, hardware and software engineering support, and marketing, MIDs are going to be a failure. There’s no doubt in my mind that the manufacturers will not commit themselves fully. Look at the UMPC.

So here are a couple more suggestions I have for Intel if they wanting win:

1) Watch the convergence of cameras and connectivity.

There has to be good a camera built into these devices. Most UMPCs failed miserably here. MIDs are large enough to have cameras and lenses that knock the socks off most cell phones.

Further, Work with QIK (etc) to get video out of the box in these devices. One advantage the MIDs will have over the Nokia N95 or other cellphones running Qik is the larger screen size which will come in handy for interacting with chat. Yes, this means that there has to be a 3G/WiMAX or comparable radio on board. For those that don’t have radios that go beyond WiFi there’s still hope here, but the message should still be the same: You can broadcast live, record video, upload video, and we’ll help make it easy for you.

Think a live broadcasting video feature is too esoteric? Think again. Look at who’s doing it. 1) Early adopters, like the ones you want to be standing in line to buy your device. 2) Key communicators. You want the likes of Michael Arrington of TechCrunch or Robert Scoble of FastCompany to use your product for their videos. Why? Because they communicate with a large number of early adopters. Just look on Twitter to see how much impact each 140 character sentence they say can have.

2) You better get your content ducks in order. Out of the box there ought to be three month coupons for Skype or a video download service or Rhapsody or all three. MIDs need to have bundles. I’m not talking about icons that clutter the screen. I’m talking about services that people really want. If users don’t want them, they’ll never get in the way. That’s key. But there better be blow away bundles. The bigger, the better.

3) The browser better be real and tuned for these devices.

4) The software experience is as critical as the hardware. In particular, what OS to use? Intel is in a pickle here in large part because Microsoft doesn’t appear to be onboard with this. It’s a crying shame. Maybe all of this is stating the fact that it’s not time for MIDs yet–except for companies like Apple and Nokia. For everyone else they need to wait a couple of years. Again, I hope not. I think someone at Intel needs to spend a bit more time with a few people outside of their normal group. I think they’re going to miss the obvious.

No matter what the OS, work with developers. Provide loaners. Help give exposure for MID apps. If there’s multi-touch, work with developers to come up with creative multi-touch games and apps. If there’s an accelerometer do the same there. Same goes for GPS. Whatever you do, don’t think you can slap together a bunch of hardware and some existing apps. It’s not going to work that way.

Finally, I disagree 100% with Maloney’s view that the issue is going to come down to fashion. He’s reading the iPhone tea leaves incorrectly. Sure the Apple crowd crows over the design sense of the iPhone, but that’s the Apple mistique. You’re not going to win this game. Just do a good job when it comes to design, but don’t focus in that direction.

Anyway, I look forward to see which MIDs reach the market. I hope I’m not going to be as disappointed as Maloney makes it sound.

Loren Heiny (1961 - 2010) was a software developer and author of several computer language textbooks. He graduated from Arizona State University in computer science. His first love was robotics.

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