Does even Intel have confidence in the Mobile Internet Device?

In a revealing interview, Intel's Sean Maloney suggests a lacklustre approach

PCP: It’s not really proprietary stuff though is it? It’s very much in the league of porting a full OS onto a small device and the device suffering for it.

SM: Yeah, granted – they do suffer for it. But on the other hand, there’s a billion people using that OS. If you go for complete simplicity and strip down versions of Linux you can reach a certain demographic, but a lot of people are going to say “Where’s my Word?” or “Where’s my Powerpoint?” or “Why won’t this game run?” and the user interface is different. You don’t have to have [Windows]; it’s not necessarily one solution for all.

PCP: Absolutely, but is it not frustrating that Microsoft is so far behind in this game and that it actually doesn’t have a good mobile operating system to partner up with Intel and break this new sector with?

SM: I wouldn’t say we’re frustrated. I think the event here shows that they’re taking it seriously – we think it’s a big category.

PCP: Do you think within the next few years, there will be a maturity in the MID market that will mean these devices become ubiquitous?

SM: We’ve been working on it for 3 years – the original Atom project was kicked off in 2005. We must have spent a year arguing about what thermal envelope we should be working to. The Netbook is a very simple category to explain – it looks like a small notebook and has a lot of the functions of the notebook. An MID is a new type of device and we’ll have to see.

Most of them look very different but as yet, you just don’t know what the magic formula is. Is it going to be a touch screen interface, or a slider, or detachable keyboard, or whatever – we’ll find out. The cell phone tends to polarise the market, but MIDs are a much more happenstance fashion kind of thing. I certainly don’t feel I’ve got the instincts to figure out what will be successful there. Whereas with Netbooks, it’s easier to figure out.

Interview conducted at Computex 2008, Taipei, by Ian Robson, Editor of PC Plus