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Mobile Internet devices (MIDs) have always been beyond understanding of the consumer and have also been challenged heavily by smartphones, sub-notebooks, personal digital media players and even notebooks. As a consequence, MIDs are still not popular. But that is hardly surprising: nearly half of consumers in the U.S. surveyed by ABI research want MIDs as replacements for cell phones.

In the survey carried out by ABI research, almost half of respondents did view mobile Internet devices as a substitute for cell-phones, lending support to models incorporating cellular voice, while 34% said they would continue to use a typical cellular handset.

“This is going to become a question for MID vendors and consumers alike. There will be little difference between a smartphone such as the Palm Pre which uses an OMAP 3 processor and a MID with cellular voice, except for screen size. Understanding of what consumers want from stand-alone MIDs without cellular voice will be important,” said Philip Solis, principal analyst at ABI Research.

ABI Research believes that some people will value a separate device with a bigger screen for the web browsing, that they can choose when to carry. The more interesting promise offered by MIDs without cellular voice will be their repackaging in the form of specialized Internet-connected consumer electronics devices such as media players or personal navigation devices.

Quite a lot of mobile Internet devices have been introduced in the recent years, but none has become truly popular. The vast majority of such devices feature about 7” touch-screen display with complex buttons to emulate mouse and are pretty bulky. As a result, those, who need Internet for business reasons choose to have notebooks, whereas those who want basic Internet browsing buy smartphones.

Nowadays MIDs are attacked by netbooks, which provide both browsing as well as additional services. That said, the MID category does have to transform into devices like Apple iPhone or T-Mobile G1, which are rather small, otherwise, MIDs will continue to be a very niche market aimed at small groups of users.

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