Since last year’s IDF, Intel—being late to the portable market—has made much of the putative Mobile Internet Device (MID), designed to replace mobile phones for web surfing, which they admittedly do badly. MIDs, not coincidentally, would all be powered by Intel’s new low-power Silverthorne processor, now renamed Atom.
Let’s ignore the technical merits of Atom for now. AnandTech has done a fine analysis of Atom vs. ARM’s products, and suffice it to say that a 2W power profile may be hot stuff in the x86 world, but MIDs—should they take off as a category—are far more likely to be powered by ARM processors for the next few years.
Another interesting analysis comes from M:Metrics, who tracked 10,000 new iPhone users for six months after the phone’s launch. Far from wanting to go out and spend $500 to buy yet another gadget to put in their pockets, iPhone users were avid web surfers—much more so than their smartphone compatriots:
Any news or info via browser
Accessed web search
Watched mobile TV and/or video
Watched on-demand video
Accessed Social Networking
Listened to music on mobile phone
Source: M:Metrics, Inc., Copyright © 2008. Survey of U.S. mobile subscribers. Data based on three-month moving average for period ending 31st January 2008, n = 31,389.
You could argue that the data were skewed because smartphone users tend to be business types who use them more for email, whereas iPhone users are younger and hipper—as the social networking stats would indicate. That may be true, but I find it more likely that the iPhone is just a lot better platform for working online than the current generation of phones, BlackBerries included, and it’s unleashing a pent-up demand for portable online access.
Depending on how you look at the iPhone, it’s either the first generation MID or the nail in the coffin of a nascent product category that will quickly be made irrelevant by a new generation of smartphones.