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Intel MIDs stare into the great abyss

Moorestown too big, too late?

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The mobile internet device revolution isn't going as swimmingly as Intel had planned.

According to a report Friday from Taiwanese market-watcher DigiTimes, those ever-leaky industry "sources" claim that fewer than 30,000 Intel-based MIDs have been sold worldwide.

That's a far cry from what DigiTimes cites as Intel's estimate of 150,000 to 200,000 sales.

MIDs have been swimming upstream. Their acceptance has been buffeted by the all-encompassing Meltdown, derailed by the rise of more-capable netbooks, made less necessary by web-ready smartphones, and dogged by the power requirements of Intel's first-generation MID platform, Menlow, which was first announced two years ago and which began to appear in MIDs about a year later.

Despite the Menlow disappointment, Intel is far from throwing in the towel. Seemingly every chance it gets, the company is trumpeting its upcoming, far more power-friendly Moorestown mobile platform, set for release early next year.

For example, Intel's Ultra Mobility exec Anand Chandrasekher demoed a Moorestown prototype at IDF Beijing in April and said this week at Taiwan's Computex trade show that the upcoming platform would require one-fiftieth of Menlow's power and half as much of its board real estate.

Intel CEO Paul Otellini is bullish on small-form-factor devices as well, telling attendees at the company's recent investors confab that the company's growth goals focus heavily on small mobile devices.

But will those li'l devices include MIDS? Chandrasekher wants us to believe that they will, peppering his Computex keynote with references to MID-related partners, showing off hardware prototypes from a quintet of vendors, and congratulating a half dozen developers of middleware and apps for Moorestown-based MIDs.

But with web-enabled smartphones in users' pockets and keyboard-equipped netbooks on their laps, MIDs may be caught in ... well ... the MIDdle.

And Intel may be obliquely acknowledging that possibility. The company's sales chief, Sean Maloney, said yesterday that "We're not into handsets yet, but we're just moving into that, that'll be the next few years." Paul Otellini is on record as saying that Moorestown's follow-on, the 32nm Medfield SoC, will make it into smartphones - an environment too space-restrictive for Moorestown.

MIDs looked like a great idea a year or two ago, but not so much today. To put a slight twist on an old saw, Moorestown may be too big, too late. ®

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