There's been a lot of talk over the past several months about Netbooks and now MIDs. Netbooks are ultra-light, ultra-portable, low cost laptop computers like the Asus Eee PC, MSI Wind, Lenovo S10, and Dell Inspiron 910 Mini - they generally have screens in the 7-10" range, run an Intel Atom or similar low-powered chip, and cost in teh neighborhood of $400-500 (or more, depending on the configuration). MIDs are smaller tablet-like devices like the Nokia N810 that are less like laptops than oversized cell phones, and generally feature a touchscreen and/or sliding QWERTY thumboard. While few MIDs are actually shipping in America, Intel recently showed off a host of the devices at the Intel Developers' Forum in San Francisco.
So why do I bring this up? Well, first there was word that Xohm, the Sprint/Clearwire WiMax venture, will finally be launching this Fall with the Nokia N810 WiMax Edition on board as its first standalone device (alongside of some USB modems and portable routers). Then I heard that two cellular carriers in Europe will soon be offering 3G-capable Netbooks: T-Mobile will carry the Eee PC while Vodafone looks to be onboard with the Dell Inspiron Mini.
But is there really a market for two new classes of connected mobile devices? While I totally get it - Netbooks and MIDs both offer greater power and larger displays than smartphones, and are more portable than full-sized laptops - I'm not entirely sold on the idea that enough people will see huge advantages in carrying these devices in addition to or instead of smartphones and conventional laptops. Wireless broadband is available to laptop users by way of USB and ExpressCard modems that connect to cellular carriers' EV-DO and HSPA networks, and WiMax, LTE, and other 4G solutions will involve similar laptop-based solutions, as well.
So why the need for a Netbook or a MID? Me, I ordered a Netbook partially out of professional curiosity and partially in hopes that it can serve as my "Trade Show Machine." While my Apple MacBook isn't all that heavy, after three 10 hour days on the show floor, every extra ounce in my shoulder bag takes its toll. The prospect of a 2.5lb Netbook standing in for my 5 lb laptop is thus an appealing one. I also like the idea of carrying a $400 machine all over Vegas for four days while leaving my $1,000 machine (which, more imporantly, houses lots of precious data) at home where it's safer and sounder. Whether or not a Netbook can handle basic video editing remains to be seen, but the point is that for me, anyway the Netbook has a potential niche use in my professional life. A 3G/4G-enabled Netbook would be all the better, though WiFi is ubiqitious enough where I usually go that it doesn't matter all that much.
A MID, on the other hand, might not do that much for me. But I can only imagine niche uses similar to my personal case for the Netbook that have other folks all excited about this new form factor - particularly if it comes with always-connected wireless broadband.
So I turn to you, fair reader, to ask: Netbook? MID? Do you want one? Do you care? Why or why not? Would you rather see a WiMax-enabled Nokia N810 tablet or Lenovo S10 Netbook, or a WiMax-enabled Android phone or Windows Mobile powerhouse? Or is there room in your gadget bag for a smartphone, laptop, and one of these new-fangled Internet devices?