Intel MID prototype

User interface

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Intel offers up cheaper, simpler mobile platform for consumers

Just over a year ago, Microsoft and Intel announced the Origami platform would lay the foundation for Ultra-Mobile PCs (UMPCs). UMPCs were supposed to retail for between $599 to $999 and were based around the Windows XP Tablet PC Edition. "We believe that (ultra-mobile PCs) will eventually become as indispensable and ubiquitous as the mobile phone today," said Microsoft VP Bill Mitchell in March of 2006.

The prices never did quite dip into the $599 USD range and UMPCs never did quite live up to initial sales forecasts (Samsung has sold fewer than 100,000 units of its Q1), but the market is still pushing forward. As manufacturers like Samsung, Asus and HTC are working on second generation UMPC designs which run on Windows Vista, it looks as though Intel is looking to take the "bigger than a Smartphone, smaller than a laptop" sector in a different direction. Intel posted two slides on its website before the IDF Beijing tradeshow, which detail the new Mobile Internet Device (MID) platform.

Intel is targeting the MID platform, codename McCaslin, to appeal more to the consumer market. Most UMPCs are priced out of the typical consumer market -- with prices ranging from around $900 to $1,800 -- and end up being purchased by business professionals instead of the average user who has been spoiled by $500 laptops and carrier-subsidized Smartphones.

In order to reach a lower price point, MIDs will feature a simplified, embedded Linux operating system and smaller 4" to 6" touch screen displays (800x480 to 1024x600). Processing power will come from a Stealey processor running at 600MHz to 800MHz while WiFi, Bluetooth and 3G HSDPA connectivity will also be included.

The footprint for the Linux-based operating system will be around 512MB and will be manageable with just 256MB of main memory. Intel pegs cold boot times at 20 seconds, resume from hibernate at 10 seconds and resume from standby at 5 seconds.

Intel has split the MID platform into three categories: Stay in Touch, Be Entertained and Access Info & Locate. Stay in Touch devices will be optimized for VoIP, email, instant messaging and have the ability to take pictures and record video. Be Entertained devices will feature support for streaming video (with wide codec support), gaming, Mobile TV, music playback and will have optional multimedia docks. Access Info & Locate devices will be targeted more towards mobile GPS navigation, real-time Points of Interest (POI) database along with local search and services.

Intel has not released any targets for battery life, nor has it announced any pricing parameters for MIDs. It's pretty safe to assume, however, that prices should fall well below the $1,000 mark and that battery life should be greatly improved over first generation UMPCs.

"Google fired a shot heard 'round the world, and now a second American company has answered the call to defend the rights of the Chinese people." -- Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-N.J.)
Related Articles
Samsung's Q1 Ultra En Route
March 15, 2007, 11:40 AM
Microsoft Unveils its "Origami" Project
March 9, 2006, 10:00 AM
Intel Demos UMPC Prototype
March 7, 2006, 4:49 PM

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