Comment: Intel's mobile net devices still suck

In an unconvincing keynote at IDF today, Intel's ultramobility figurehead Anand Chandrasekher banged the drum once again for the mobile internet device (MID). His message, however, was undermined by unimpressive demos and devices.

Chandrasekher reprised Intel's well worn pitch for putting the internet in your pocket courtesy of MIDs powered by Intel's low power Atom processor. Once again, the Atom chip's superior support for existing web applications thanks to its x86 architecture was emphasised.

Oversized, underwhelming, over there

And once again, Intel wheeled out a number of oversized, underwhelming MIDs. In fact, the basic concept that underpins the MID is little changed from the failed UMPC (ultra-mobile PC) initiative of several years ago.

The MIDs Intel showed from partners including Clarion, Lenovo, Panasonic and more are all too big for comfortable pocketability.

To make matters worse, Intel attempted to demonstrate the popular multiplayer game World of Warcraft on an MID. Despite claims that the device gave a "great" experience, the choppy frame rates and poor performance were all too obvious.

Not a bad idea

It's not that the basic idea behind the Atom processor is flawed. Full x86 compatibility in a genuinely pocket-sized device would be a wonderful thing. Likewise, the Atom is impressively power efficient by x86 CPU standards.

But it's not yet efficient enough to go into iPhone-sized smartphones. And that is what is required for Intel's vision for the mobile internet to really take off.

Frustratingly, Chandrasekher only touched briefly on the progress of the next generation Atom platform, known as Moorestown. Tantalisingly, he reaffirmed that Moorestown will deliver a 10x reduction in idle power consumption.

My kind of Moorestown

But he also let slip that Moorestown will not appear until 2010. We reckon that's a delay of at least six months compared with previous statements.

The real irony in Intel's relentless promoting of the unimpressive MID concept is the fact that the Atom is looking like a roaring success in other segments. The netbook concept has really picked up pace, with new designs appearing by the day.

Likewise, Atom looks like a winner for a wide range of embedded applications including automotive infotainment systems, IP phones, and other internet enabled devices.

So, the Atom looks extremely healthy. We just wish Intel would cool it on the MID concept until it has a chip that does the internet-in-your-pocket idea justice.


Technology and cars. Increasingly the twain shall meet. Which is handy, because Jeremy (Twitter) is addicted to both. Long-time tech journalist, former editor of iCar magazine and incumbent car guru for T3 magazine, Jeremy reckons in-car technology is about to go thermonuclear. No, not exploding cars. That would be silly. And dangerous. But rather an explosive period of unprecedented innovation. Enjoy the ride.