The MID is dead. Long live the MID!

oqo2 The reason for the confusing title is I’m confused. We’ve talked before about the MID (an acronym for Mobile Internet Device) in Do the MIDs have an advantage over the Advantage? and MIDs vs. Large Screen Windows Mobile Devices. However, I haven’t since talked about MIDs because so few MIDs have been released to market. Indeed, some commentators have pronounced the MID an evolutionary dead end, its 4″ – 5″ screen size squeezed between large screen (3+”) mobile phones and inexpensive 7″ – 10″ netbooks.

It’s still unclear whether the MID concept ultimately will be successful. But pronouncements of the MID’s death are premature. MIDs were the star of the show at last week’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. UMPC Portal’s database lists the latest MIDs. Check out the UMID M1, which jkOnTheRun and Pocketables both like.

The terms MID and UMPC often are used interchangeably. But there is a difference as Intel explains: MID vs. UMPC. Basically, the form factor is the same. The difference is a UMPC is a business device with a “heavy” OS like Vista and business software like Microsoft Office, whereas MID is a consumer device with a “light” OS like Linux and is optimized for web surfing and media.

I don’t completely agree with this explanation. The UMPC also includes 7″ devices, particularly in a slate form, such as the Samsung Q1 Ultra. Nevertheless, it’s true the MID form factor can serve two different purposes, being either a business or consumer device. The consumer device is relatively inexpensive (say $500), certainly less expensive than the business device, which needs more processor and RAM firepower to run Vista, Microsoft Office, etc.

I’m intrigued by the MID as a business device. I’m out of the office a lot so portability is important. A pocketable laptop seems the ultimate in portability. Even in the office, I go from room to room to harass meet with different people. Dragging a laptop around the office gets old fast. Having a laptop I could stash in my pocket or hold in the palm in my hand would be a lot easier.

There is one MID in particular that qualifies as a business-class device; the OQO Model 2+ (picture courtesy of GottaBeMobile). Indeed, the Model 2+ was one of the stars of CES.

The Model 2+ is a business-class beast inside, with up to a 1.86GHz Atom processor and 2GB of RAM. It’s also 3G capable, so I can be connected when out of the office. The 3G options are an open SIM HSPA or dedicated EV-DO with Verizon or Sprint. I prefer the flexibility of the open SIM HSPA; I can use the same SIM in multiple devices.

The Model 2+ better be a beast since it runs Vista (though an XP “downgrade” is available). But does the Model 2+ have to run Vista? Windows 7 now is in beta and first reports are that it is a lighter OS than Vista. Indeed, per GottaBeMobile, the AIGO MID may be running Windows 7 later this year. There’s also speculation on several blogs that OEMs may offer a free upgrade to Windows 7 to customers who buy their devices with a Vista OS before Windows 7 is officially released. 

I’m currently running the Windows 7 beta on one of my machines (using Virtual PC 2007). However, I just installed Windows 7 yesterday when it first became generally available. Consequently, it’s too early for me to draw any conclusions on Windows 7 as an alternative to Vista.

vaiopocketIs the Model 2+ pocketable? My definition of pocketable is that the device can fit in your pocket (duh). The picture from a Sony advertisement of its hot new Vaio P takes pocketability to an extreme. But as one commentator observes: “There’s a big difference between devices that need to go in bag with other devices and devices that truly are pocketable. Once you need to go in the case with something else, size isn’t that important anymore (even if you still save a little on weight).” I agree.

By my definition, the Model 2+ is pocketable, though barely so. Indeed, it is quite similar to the HTC Advantage in screen size/resolution (OQO 5″ 800 x 480 vs. Advantage 5″ 640 x 480), physical size (OQO 142/83/26 mm vs. Advantage 133/98/20 mm) and weight (OQO 450g vs. Advantage 359g).

Nevertheless, you’ll need big pockets, and not just literally, but also figuratively to afford it. The entry level model with a 1.33 GHz processor, 1GB RAM and a 60GB hard drive is $999. $1,499 gets you the 1.83GHz processor, 2GB RAM and a 120GB hard drive. $149 more gets you an 3G. There are other extras ($399 docking station, $700 more for a 60GB SSD, $279 – $379 for extended warranties). Availability is estimated for May 2009.

I am concerned about the usability of the Model 2+ in business scenarios. It has enough firepower. However, pocketable means a small screen and keyboard.

I’m not too concerned about the screen. My Advantage’s screen is the same size and it’s readable with a lower display resolution.

The keyboard probably is too small for regular typing; input probably have to be with thumbs or hunt and peck, as I do on my BlackBerry Storm. Of course, if I had to type a lot, I always could carry along a foldable Bluetooth or USB keyboard. Additionally, since the Model 2+ screen is a touchscreen, inking is possible. Indeed, in meetings, I usually ink, not type. However, a 5″ screen is a small area for ink input. So ink input would be a brief note, not meeting notes.

The Model 2+ keyboard slides out the bottom, instead of being a clamshell like the UMID M1. This is fine if you are holding the device (as in the picture) but not so fine if the device is sitting on a table as in a meeting. Of course, a clamshell is not so convenient if you’re holding the device. Just another trade-off.

The Model 2+ is being discussed on the GottaBeMobile forums at OQO To Unveil 1.86 ghz Model 2+ at CES. I’ve joined that discussion. Come join it also!

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