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Despite of rather aggressive advertising of mobile Internet devices (MIDs), ultra-mobile personal computers (UMPCs) and other ultra-mobile products, only personal digital media players and netbooks have gained popularity. It is hardly a news that analysts expect MIDs and UMPCs to pick up, the only question is whether they are going to be booming, or moderately successful devices.

ABI Research expects the ultra-mobile device (UMD) market – that is, the shipments of UMPCs, netbooks, MIDs and mobile consumer electronics devices combined – to achieve a 385 million unit size in 2014. The diversity of form-factors and device types we see today will likely continue as vendors look to meet each audience’s unique preferences.  A year ago ABI already said that the market of UMDs will reach 200 million units in 2013, up from 10 million in 2010, but now it looks like the growth will be even faster.

“Consumers and business buyers are only recently accustomed to the netbook feature set. Regardless of vendor, the majority of today’s netbooks ship with Intel processors and Windows XP into developed markets,” said ABI’s senior analyst Jeff Orr.

As uptake continues, developing markets will become the larger opportunity leveraging both ARM-based processors and Linux operating systems, according to ABI. The premium netbook category will also be established, offering larger screens and greater choices in connectivity solutions. Given little distinction today in feature-set and a relatively small price band, brands are differentiating themselves on aesthetics and build quality.

Pocketable MIDs remain a far more interesting product segment to watch, said Mr. Orr, as the market is still emerging. While the most common product design remains the tablet form, competing form factors such as models with slider keyboards, clamshells and touch-screen-only interfaces are gaining in popularity.

“However, there is a danger that the MID market will disappear before it gets the chance to mature, as smartphones increase in popularity and mimic most if not all tasks performed by MIDs,” claimed the analyst.

One can also expect the line distinguishing MIDs from smartphones to blur as MIDs add voice: Nokia has equipped its latest “Internet Tablet,” the model N900, with cellular voice capabilities, for example.

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